Cinder & Ella (Cinder & Ella, Book 1) by Kelly Oram
Synopsis: It’s been almost a year since eighteen-year-old Ella Rodriguez was in a car accident that left her crippled, scarred, and without a mother. After a very difficult recovery, she’s been uprooted across the country and forced into the custody of a father that abandoned her when she was a young child. If Ella wants to escape her father’s home and her awful new stepfamily, she must convince her doctors that she’s capable, both physically and emotionally, of living on her own. The problem is, she’s not ready yet. The only way she can think of to start healing is by reconnecting with the one person left in the world who’s ever meant anything to her—her anonymous Internet best friend, Cinder.
Hollywood sensation Brian Oliver has a reputation for being trouble. There’s major buzz around his performance in his upcoming film The Druid Prince, but his management team says he won’t make the transition from teen heartthrob to serious A-list actor unless he can prove he’s left his wild days behind and become a mature adult. In order to douse the flames on Brian’s bad-boy reputation, his management stages a fake engagement for him to his co-star Kaylee. Brian isn’t thrilled with the arrangement—or his fake fiancée—but decides he’ll suffer through it if it means he’ll get an Oscar nomination. Then a surprise email from an old Internet friend changes everything.
About the Author: Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat, Mr. Darcy.
Genre: young adult, romance, contemporary
More Info: Kindle edition, 322 pages, published by Bluefields on October 1, 2014
Ellamara was named after a priestess from the Cinder Chronicles by L.P. Morgan, her mother’s favorite book series. Ella adopts the books herself and becomes a reader with her own blog. She lives with her single mother, and while they live modestly, Ella has many amazing memories, such as author pictures and signatures. Her birthday is a big production; when she turns 18, her mom takes her out of school and they head for the spa. But in the middle of a winter storm, they get into a car crash.
When Ella wakes up from a coma, she is in the presence of her long-lost father. She has missed her mother’s funeral. Most of her things are gone. And Ella has burn scars that cover over 70% of her body. She now walks with a limp and a cane—and it’s a miracle she can move at all. Then, she is taken from Boston to LA, where she is given a handicapped room with a view. Her new life also comes with a supermodel step-mother and twin step-sisters.
She is scorned by her family, tormented at her new school, and haunted by her own thoughts. When she reconnects with her old internet friend, things get better. They move their friendship forward, but the ultimate test of their relationship has yet to come. At the same time, Ella must learn to adapt to her new body, mental health, and environment.
I have so much to say about this book, so here I go!
Veronika (The Regal Critiques) recommended this book to me. When I read the synopsis, it reminded me of a recent book I had read: When It’s Real by Erin Watt (review). While When It’s Real was light, Cinder & Ella was heavy. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed and smiled throughout this book, but there was some hefty content.
At her new private school, Ella is the victim of relentless, over-the-top bullying. The bullying was cliché and almost over-excessive; but I’m afraid that such harsh words and actions might actually be a possible reaction in the real world.
That being said, Ella is not your typical, beautiful, white heroine. First off, she is half-caucasian, half-Chilean. She expresses her spanish identity with her mother; but since that timeline is confined to the prologue and brief mentions, I wish there were more about her mixed heritage apart from the food. Now, she has a lot of scars, a pronounced limp, and a cane. Ella also struggles with mental issues in addition to physical ones. She has depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal tendencies. Yet, Ella so is brave and strong. For example, I would be speechless in the face of my favorite author or actor, but here is Ella demanding that the actor playing the main character of The Druid Prince read the book. She fights for her opinions, and the person she (playfully) argues with the most, is Cinder.
Cinder is an online friend Ella met through her blog. He is a mysterious, but friendly persona who lives across the country, until Ella is brought to California. What readers know, that Ella doesn’t, is that Cinder is in fact Brian Oliver, a famous actor. They have been talking for over three years. When, Cinder doesn’t hear from Ella after her accident, so he thinks she is dead. He goes on a downward spiral, until he finally receives an email months later. His whole world flips upside down, and you can tell he really cares for Ella despite the supposed distance between them. For most of the first book, I assumed Cinder/Brian was in his teens. He acted like a spoiled brat, like an entitled child, apart from his devotion to Ella. This does match society’s view of him, with a bad reputation as a teen who’s not serious about his career. But, when I learned that he was supposed to be 22 years old, I was stunned; the age did not fit my perception of Brian. Otherwise, I wish I had seen Brian interact with more people to reveal his personality further.
Ella’s other friend is Vivian. Vivian is the other outcast at school, with red and white streaked hair, violet contacts, and two dads. While she doesn’t have a lot in common with Ella, they click instantly. Vivian doesn’t care about Ella’s deformations, and neither do her fathers. As costume designers, the two gay men make Ella feel beautiful in their home-made dresses. I just love Vivian and her dads. They are an amazing addition to the story and to Ella’s life.
For the rest of the characters, i.e. Ella’s new family, I was back and forth. I sympathized with Ella as the main character, but I occasionally saw the other side. Their actions and words were not always black and white. The characters were so real and flawed. The main thing I have to say for Jennifer, parallels Ella’s assessment: she’s insensitive. Ella’s dad is a conundrum. He obviously has hidden resentment toward his daughter, but he welcomes her into his home. He is over-protective, but doesn’t accept Ella’s own judgement. Anastasia is rude and ruins even the best of times.
Then there is the other twin, Juliette. In the beginning, she was nowhere near as bad as Anastasia. She ignored Ella for the most part. Later, her morals kick in and she acts out for Ella. It’s a bumpy transition, but I loved Juliette’s character arc/development.
The writing was easy to follow, although many of the plot points and character traits are revealed through dialogue. I can’t say I was disappointed; in over-descriptive books I tend to skim over the narration and skip to the talking. And there were many amazing details. Having said that, this book could have used more description. There were times when I couldn’t picture the setting and paint a mental picture of the scene.
One of the positives about this book was the talk about mental health. It was expressed in a straightforward manner. There is a stigma about mental health, so I was happy to see Ella’s sessions with Dr. Parish. Ella may have felt alone in the beginning, but even then she had her hospital team. When she was told to build her support system, Ella contacted Cinder. The best thing about her friendship (infatuation?) was its effect. Yes, her funny friend changed her with smiles, laughs, and normalcy. However, it was not “love conquers all.” Ella still struggles with her appearance and motivation.
The ending was so cute. Personally, I was content with the finale. When I found out there was a book 2, I was happy to be privy to more of Ella and Brian’s forming relationship. I was so excited, that I actually binge read both books within 24 hours. Oops. 😊
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