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Author: Courtney Cole
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Lakehouse Press
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Lakehouse Press
24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.
He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match.
But he’s got his reasons.
His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.
As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade.
So he slipped far, far from it.
Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?
And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.
When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.
But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it.
He knows that. And he’s working on it.
But is that enough to make her stay?
Honestly, I don't have words for how much I enjoyed this book. I've been sitting here for a while now, trying to find the words, but I really can't adequately describe just how much I adore this novel with every fiber of my being. (Before you think it, no, I am not exaggerating! I thoroughly loved this book!) I loved every aspect of it - the characters, the plot, the writing... - every single thing was just perfect. Courtney Cole showed her talent as a writer in this novel, simply put. I found myself gripped from the first page alone, and my interest in Cole's characters didn't fade well after the last page. After finishing reading If You Stay, the first thing that came to my mind was that I haven't been this excited for how a New Adult novel will be received since the wildly popular and critically acclaimed Easy!
First and foremost, I'd just like to applaud Cole for the most original first meeting between the two characters, Pax and Mila - seriously, I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it! I really can't blame Mila for not being able to get Pax off her mind. If it were me, I would have reacted the exact same way! Moreover, I again would like to laud Cole for writing about a thoroughly engaging and realistic story about two people who couldn't be more different in taking a chance with each other. The chemistry between Pax and Mila is off the charts but while the intense attraction between the two of them is indeed palpable, nothing about their story screams insta-love. Their relationship had a proper build-up, I'm happy to note.
Secondly, the characters make it impossible for me not to be engrossed in this novel. In one word, Pax is broken. Damaged. Scarred. Alone. (Okay, I might have taken the one-word descriptions too far...) He thinks he has no one - his father and grandfather essentially left him to pick up the pieces of his life after his mother's death. It would initially seem that's he a Grade-A asshole, but the dual POVs help shine a light on how Pax sees and feels about his life. We then find out that because he can't escape his past no matter what he does, and he's resorted to vices - alcohol, drugs, and sex - to numb the pain of the unknown. In Mila, he finds something of an answer to his problems. He honest to God cares about her well-being. Furthermore, she makes him want to try; she makes him want to be a better man, and all this in the short time that they have known each other. Pax had me invested in his character - from the first chapter alone, I knew that I had to know how his story ended.
Mila, meanwhile, is like a sunshine against the darkness that is Pax. While she is going through her own set of problems, she isn't as closed off to happiness as Pax is, and that ultimately is the difference between the two of them. Pax is initially portrayed as someone who has given up, but Mila is depicted as someone who is fighting tooth and nail to overcome her troubles from the very beginning. Moreover, I love how Mila, while showing Pax that she is by his side for good and for worse, refused to be his doormat when times get tough. She does love Pax yes, I couldn't be more convinced of that, but she has a healthy respect for herself, and I just LOVE that. Too many heroines in YA/NA novels these days are wholly content to be treated like garbage by their boyfriends, and that's NOT RIGHT.
What I loved most about If I Stay is that while Mila was the catalyst in Pax wanting to face his problems, everything didn't begin and end with Mila. While Pax did want to be better for Mila, it was still apparent to me that Pax wholeheartedly wanted to be better for himself the most. He wanted to find out about the secrets of the past for himself; moreover, he wanted to start the long, perilous journey on recovering from his troubles for himself. Simply put, Pax WANTS to recover. Also, in contemporary novels dealing with real-life issues, I've come to find out that the problems the characters are going through are often put in the backseat to the romance, but that couldn't be further from the truth in this novel. Pax's mental and emotional troubles were never ignored by Cole, and I'm completely impressed at how well she wrote about them. They weren't merely plot devices or anything like that - Pax actually faces his demons!
I know that this review is a tad too long, but I couldn't help myself, so give me a break! Anyway, not only is Cole spot on with how Mila handled herself around Pax, how Pax faced his problems, how the two main characters went about their relationship, her writing is also astonishingly tremendous. She has a real knack for writing gritty, heartwrenching scenes - the scene wherein Pax finds out all the sordid details from the past completely broke my heart, as did its aftermath.
All in all, If You Stay is a MUST READ. (I hope I've emphasized that enough!) This is one of the best novels I've read in the past few years, and easily the best NA novel I've read, along with Easy. Cole did a mind-blowingly good job in telling the story of these people whose paths crossed after a night of close calls and how they helped each other build their lives back up. I highly encourage you to go grab a copy - you won't regret it!
Rating: 5 Stars
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