Nothing Left to Burn, by Heather Ezell
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Release Date: March 13, 2018
Length: 320 pages
Times Read: Once
Rating: Good, but not quite what I expected
The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she’s been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it’s time to evacuate.
Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey–and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks’s dark past come to light, Audrey can’t help but wonder if there’s danger in the pull she feels–both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.
What I Liked: This was one of my most anticipated spring reads, and I somehow envisioned it being a lighter contemporary romance than what I got. This contemp is dark, mysterious, and the romance is not one to root for. But it’s well written, and the story is great.
♥ Audrey. Most of the book is seen from her thoughts, and she’s a compelling narrator. She’s incredibly flawed, but I wanted so much to see her get free.
♥ Flashbacks. In general, I love flashbacks or a nonlinear timeline in a novel, and the construction here was great. The present story line takes place all in one day, and the chapters in between go from the beginning of her relationship with Brooks up until the night the fire starts.
♥ The setting. I’ve read plenty of books set in LA, but none in Orange County. I live in Inland Empire so I’m pretty close to Coto de Caza (fun fact–this is where the early seasons of The Real Housewives of Orange County took place). We lived through pretty bad wildfires this season, so I was interested to read a fictionalized account of it.
♥Audrey and Brooks’ relationship. In truth, the relationship itself isn’t good, and Brooks’ isn’t a good guy. Their relationship was toxic, controlling, and manipulative. But I did think it was realistic and well written. It showed how emotional abuse can start, and how some people would be hesitant to even call it that. But it IS emotional abuse, Brooks IS manipulative, and he IS NOT a good guy. This was not your typical love story.
♥Grace and Hayden. Audrey’s best friend and her best friend’s older brother. They were both really good friends to Audrey, and stuck with her even through her retreating due to Brooks’ manipulation.
What I Didn’t: I did think this would be a fluffier book, but that’s my fault.
⊗Brooks. He’s broody, negative, dark, and unhappy. And he doesn’t turn it around at all. He’s a shitty boyfriend and isn’t good to Audrey, even when he thinks he is. I don’t always mind brooding, but when there’s no payoff to it, I do. There was nothing redeeming about this character.
Brooding well done
⊗The “secret” in Brooks’ past. I guessed it pretty early on, so the mystery was sort of lost for me.
⊗The pace. Because so much of the book takes place in Audrey’s head, we don’t see a whole lot of action and it took awhile for things to pick up.
Final Thoughts: It’s a complicated and intense book, but a really good look into emotional abuse and mental illness. Just don’t expect a fast-paced or light read. It’s an impressive debut novel.
Favorite Quotes: “I don’t know how to say what I don’t yet understand.”
“Maybe I’m simply not there yet. Is that not enough of an answer?”