Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 5th, 2011
Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay.
Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
I've never been a huge fan of Contemporary Fiction. I hate as many books in the genre as I like, and those that I like, I often like in a "guilty-pleasure" way (as in, I wouldn't admit to other adults that I liked them). Teens are such a jumble of emotions and hormones to begin with; throw in the fact that the teens so many "realistic" YA books are written about are self-indulgent brats (think Gossip Girl and The Clique series), and I often find myself wondering why I picked the book up in the first place. Now before you get mad at me for knocking these series that you may well love, keep in mind that I don't think they suck; I actually find some of these books quite entertaining when I need a trashy, mindless read. I just have so many books to read, in so little time, that I would typically rather read something that takes me to a better place or has an impact on me on an emotional or intellectual level. That all being said, I wasn't sure about Deb Caletti. I never paid much attention to her or her books, and I just wrote her off as another CF author for teen girls. If this book (my first by Caletti) is any indication of her general style, I was very,VERY wrong in my assumptions. I was beyond impressed and I will most definitely read more of her books. So, on to the review...
Stay was a great book on many levels. I will first delve into the technical aspects. The book was well written and expertly paced. It kept me on the edge of my seat, turning the pages, needing to know what the outcome would be. I felt like Caletti was doling out just enough information to keep the story moving, without giving the outcome away. So many authors just can't manage to do this. I will love the story, but will see the end coming a mile away. Caletti not only managed to do it, but managed to do it without my hating her for it.
As for the actual story? Chilling. Horrifying. Real. As with all of my reviews, I will not give any spoilers whatsoever. I will say that I believe that every teenage girl should read this; preferably before getting involved in her first serious relationship. I remember having a high school friend with a relationship like Clara and Christian's. It happens more often than we care to think, and it's tragic every time. Sure, they don't all end "badly" in a physical sense, but they always, ALWAYS leave the young girl damaged for life on some level. I also think parents of girls should read this. It is so hard to take teen romances seriously sometimes, and I think a great many parents blow off what is an extremely intense relationship just because it's between two teenagers. BIG mistake. Teens have some of the most intense emotions out there, but often lack the maturity to have full control of them. Throw in the hormones and you get a potentially dangerous situation like the one that plays out in this book. Unfortunately, adults, in most cases like this, fail to notice a problem until it's much too late in the game. Hopefully in reading this, teen girls (and their parents) would see warning signs early on and get out.
As chilling as this book is, it isn't a total downer. There are a fair number of positive parts that add levity the story and the feeling that Clara's life isn't all intensity, fear, hurt, and uncomfortable feelings. I felt like it was balanced enough not to leave the reader depressed and hopeless, while still driving home the gravity of her situation. In all, it is an extremely competent portrayal of a very important and sensitive topic. Caletti manages to bring to light the horrifying nature of this type of relationship without coming across as preachy, or sacrificing the lesson for the sake of entertainment.
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Grade Level Recommendation: Initially, I was going to say 9th grade+, but then I thought back to my high school friend and the fact that she became involved with her "Christian" at the end of 8th grade, and changed my mind. Thinking back, I realize that most of my friends their first "real" boyfriends by 8th grade, and that it would definitely benefit girls younger than that to read this. That said, I would recommend this book for 6th grade+ (ages 12+). It does have some mature content (the protagonist describes in a non-graphic way, the loss of her virginity), but it is relevant, appropriate, and realistic.