Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: If You Stay by Courtney Cole

If You Stay
Courtney Cole
Series: Beautifully Broken #1
Genre: NA Contemporary
Publication date: February 5th 2013
by  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'd better 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?
-Source: Gifted from Amy at Book Loving Mom-

Starting with a bang--and I mean really: check out the opening paragraph for yourself ;)--If You Stay is narrated mainly by Pax, a drug addict with a past that has led him to want to give no shits about his life. Our second POV is a sweet and innocent young girl, Mila, who meets Pax in the most unfortunate of ways. I think this is one instance where a single POV would have been much better for me. While I understand the appeal of a dual POV when it comes to a love story, especially of this nature where both characters are such opposites, I felt like one character (Pax) was much more developed than the other, more likeable, too, which might seem improbable when you first meet him, turning this book into a good read that could have been great if only I had cared for both sides equally.

Fortunately for me, it's Pax's story above all. We meet him in his lowest of the lows as a drug addict who just doesn't give a f*ck. He's the ultimate bad boy whom every girl should stay away from. He's not created for us to "like" him as a character, not to mention a love interest, but he was created as an obviously broken character who you have the strange impulse to want to fix. This is what makes his character sympathetic. You get to understand what's going on in his head and how badly he wants to change--which makes all the difference. I came to see him as someone very sweet who needs to be given a chance. Mila takes that risk. This girl, though, did not click with me. She is the definition of a "good girl", but this is not the reason why I disliked her. She was simply too naive for my taste. She jumps into a relationship with this guy with the immediate belief that he will change to become the perfect boyfriend material, even after Pax tells her that "he will try not to her her"--he emphasizes on "try". Automatically, this would have become a red flag for me, Mila seemed to be oblivious to this warning, giving her heart to him so easily. I also didn't like how she reacted when Pax finally unfolded his past. Getting pissed at how he shut her out when he was dealing with such a traumatic memory was just not ok for me. He needed someone to understand and leave him to deal, not someone who made him guilty for it. Our personalities just did not mesh, mine and hers. Even without our clashing minds, however, I never felt like I truly understood or got to know Mila. She wasn't as fleshed out a character as Pax, which leads me to think I would have enjoyed this book much more had we not gotten her perspective at all, and only saw her through Pax's eyes.

The romance in the book is extremely hot and definitely R rated, they also do not lack chemistry, but on that note it's a primarily physical relationship. Instead of taking time throughout the book to get to know each other on a more emotional level, they focus on their physical attraction; which, in reality, is fine as some couples do base themselves on their physical relationship, but as a reader I felt like the romance was more superficial.

This book, however, is more than a love story. It's ultimately about Pax dealing with his past, and finding a way to get through it without ruining his life in the process. It was an emotional read, for sure, with some very hard to imagine scenarios where you can't help but want to put yourself in the MC's shoes to try to take some of their pain away. This is the part of the book that I liked the most and I think it was well executed.

Hard to read at times, but If You Stay is also an inspiring story when you consider how far Pax comes. While I didn't love both characters, I predict that Mila will resonate with some readers better than I, making it a great reading experience all around as it's far from being a bad book.

3.5 Hot Espressos