If You Stay – Courtney Cole

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Because our past is also what make us.

I read this book for 3 hours (10PM – 1 AM), to top it all off, I had a finals exam at 2 major subjects the next (that) day but I wanted to tone down from the information overload and I was having palpitations from 2 cups of coffee that night. So I got my ebook reader, told myself and my sis: “I need to read something non-acad, for an hour” (which we both know is a lie). And I indulge in the story…

Disclaimer: This is a huge turn-around for Paradise Diaries fans.
There will be a companion novel-sequel to Beautifully Broken: If You Leave

If You Stay – Courtney Cole

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 fa├žade. 
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?

Here’s my ‘If You Stay’ thoughts:

“Love never fails…

They were lost by their own lives.
They helped each other.
They asked for help.

He was lost, at loss and confounded with something he was not aware of.
She stayed but also left.

Will he be able to win her back?
Will she stay? Or she had enough?”


I have two-words for this novel:
Liberally Tainted.
They accepted their flaws, they own their flaws and they are who they are because of those flaws.

‘If You Stay’ may seem like a novel that is normal and familiar, so to speak, but it is because it deals with reality that is normally overlooked. This is one of the stories which I understood, it’s not the “I want to understand it” sort of thing but it’s more of an “I understand it and I just get it” type of story.

First, I was captivated from the first scene, why you ask? Well, let’s say it was ‘let’s get it on’, ‘down like that’-themed, though I did flinched at the part; I did not expect such explosive at the very start and while it was a shocker for me, I still want to delve in the story. The plot and the summary of the book was enough to catch my attention; and it was not enough to just read excerpts, there a lot to the story and as a curious cat, I want to know more… And boy, did more have gotten me.

So, what caught my eye and attention?
Oblivion.” That word just struck me.
Oblivion made me think of void, of numbness, of defiance, of loss and mostly still and black.
This was a story that was between or just you do not know if it is to be liked or loved, or both. But I may just use: ‘live’ (Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless: like + love)

It dealt so much with real-life situations— like drugs, alcoholism, not asking for help, etc.; that it leads the normal to become uniquely understated. Some people do vices and it becomes normal that those people do it but it becomes understated because it is not corrected, there are no helping hands. And also, for a person to ask and be given help to those who does not want it take offense to it. No blame game. It’s real. The problems dealt with in the story is a daily situation for others and that is one of the reasons why I read this and ‘lived’ (like + love) it. And it is not only one person who is screwed up but both of the characters. Which I must say is very real, there is no person who does not have a problem; and for both the characters in the story to be so imperfect is what made it more real. More understandable and more appreciated.

I must point out that it felt like it was primarily Pax’s story. Do not get me wrong, Mila has her story to tell but it mostly focuses on Pax and how deals with things and the relationship of Pax and Mila per se. And I do not complaint, I liked it that way. What happened to Pax is minimal if I am to compare it with Mila’s but the same ache surfaces. It was just that Pax’s was deeper and miraculously forgivable (what happened to Pax was dreadful and heavy, and I pity and sympathize with him). There was something with Mila, as she was martyr-like, how this girl loves, well talk about all sacrifices and she did it! I should give credit to Pax, he was unbelievably sweet, loyal, caring, and very loving to Mila. But Mila was beyond, when she knew the real story, she never left, the same way when she knew from the start that Pax is like a banner of “I am trouble”, he was a wolf and yes, the big bad wolf; yet Mila accepted Pax as he is, with all those flaws and faults. Then I do acknowledge how Mila used her mind, may or may not be a wrong choice but it was; and she left with a perfect reason. The wooing afterwards was swoony and made me want to have Pax (well, I do hope sans the drug-dependency but how can that be Pax, right? Okay, so I partly-hope only). It was such a great read for me. Also, add-up the magnificent epilogue.
I want more but I am satisfied.

I am not done yet, so this is getting much longer than expected but, this blurred me for a bit:
I am not into comparing novels but when I read this book it had a nostalgic effect on me especially as it seemed like a mixture of ‘Looking for Alaska by JohnGreen’, ‘Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver’ and ‘Th1rteen R3asons Why by JayAsher’ (well, all sans the suicide).
Pax reminded me of Alaska, when he (Pax) was lost, and he was super lost that there was this urge for me to reach out to him, calm him and tell him personally that he can deal with this, that he needs help that he can just act nonchalantly and be a victim of drugs (though it was reiterated that he is not an addict), drug-dependent so to speak? Alaska lost it, she was out-going and it’s shocking that she has this tantrum that she cannot control. But in a way, Pax asked for help, he knows he needed it and he have a supportive girlfriend (what is not to admire about Mila, she was nearly-perfect).
Why Before I Fall? I do not know but there seem like an occurrence of something; there was something beyond the tedious life Pax have. And to be honest, from the very start, I was thinking maybe he was such a pervert that he likes too much BJ but it has a reason and he needs to recount to that. Which I must say one of the things I understand why he does things. And that a trauma is so powerful that you cannot remember what it is but you have a fear about something and you do not know why.
Oh remember the popular girl and the outcast? Yes, that is somehow similar to Pax’s Dad and another outcast (I am not spoiling who, that is for you to find out).
So, Thirteen Reasons Why (the very first book that made me love a book, it was real), I can just say it is as simple as “It is and purely is real.” But there is more to it. Remember how Clay listened at those cassette tapes and followed the map? The other part in the story (in If You Stay) wherein Pax got help and he learns his past, it was like that, he was listening, watching, he was really there and he followed everything… it all lead to something devastating that scared and scarred him for life.

Lastly, ‘If You Stay’ made me feel like what I had felt reading “The Edge of Never byJ.A. Redmerski” but it made me a reader with unnoticed surprise. Most novels have this kind of setting: The partner knows beforehand or guesses what the other is better at, what is best for him or her and all those things. Well, this novel has those parts too but the thing is it was not mostly like that, the characters in this novel is like walking on a blank path, nowhere to go, the only way is what they want to take, and from there they make their own path. I loved the way that I see how everything unveils at the same time with the character; I am in awe that it shocks the characters themselves to know something about them. It is something to take note that as the characters know about themselves then they are also unfolding to their partners and to themselves whom they really are. No jumping into conclusions, just going with the flow.

I had this very thought when I finished reading ‘If You Stay’:
“The twist? The reason why he, Pax, was like that?
I… I never thought it was ‘that’. He totally blocked it from his thought.
He (Pax) was doing ‘it’, what ‘he’ did but he (Pax) did not know he (Pax) was doing it.
There was a reason.
There was this event.
This event that leads us a clear idea of what happen to this (Pax) guy.”

With that a little confusing thought, I end this. I have more to say about Pax and Mila but I do not want to spoil. Better purchase or lend from someone a copy. A short and such a fulfilling read.
And another thing, there are so many quotable quotes! I love Mila and Pax’s sweet, humor and innuendo exchanges.

Rating: 4.5 - 5 out 5.

If there are two things I could wish right now, those are:
1.      I hope “If You Leave” will be released early.
2.      To have a signed copy of the physical book, “If You Stay” (With a note from Courtney Cole)
- I can dream, right? Haha!

P.S. I fell in love with everything in it. Realistically imperfect and I am still in awe.
And I want to try Hypnotism therapy (I am intrigued).

-     Jassie