This is the first book written by Courtney Cole that I have read. I found the premise of the book and the title interesting when I added it to my reading list. If You Stay by Courtney Cole is the first novel of the Beautifully Broken Series.
The story focuses on two characters Pax Tate and Mila Hill. Both are different from each other and it is opposites attract situation. Pax is an asshole; he knows it and admits it himself. He is a trust fund kid and there is an element of mystery about his past. Mila is a nice and sweet girl who owns a small shop in town. Their first meeting is less than ideal. Mila finds Pax in his car overdosed on drugs and pills late one night and saves his life.
The story unfolds naturally and doesn’t seem forced at any point. Pax is fascinated by Mila after she comes to check on him in the hospital where he is recovering from the overdose. Pax often refers to Mila as red. He thinks of her as Red Riding Hood and of himself as the Big Bad Wolf. Pax associates all things good about people with Mila and her sweetness draws him in. Mila is understandably cautious about Pax because of the way she first saw him but she is just as intrigued by him as he is by her.
There are subtle hints from the start about Pax’s past but not much is given away. Mila’s parents have died a few years ago, leaving her and her older sister Maddy alone. She carries baggage from her parent’s death and their toxic relationship with each other. Pax has lost his mother at a young age, he was uprooted from the environment he knew and his dad has pretty much neglected him since his mom’s death.
Pax is self-reflective and is aware that he has problems, he feels empty and he doesn’t know why. He has turned to drugs to feel numb; he has been taking sleeping pills for as long as he can remember. The accidental overdose is a wake-up call for him and then onwards he tries hard to not repeat the same mistakes. I liked the fact that Pax didn’t decide to change himself for Mila because he realized it wasn’t healthy. Mila reminds him constantly to make changes for himself, not for her sake. They have a very cute relationship and seem right for each other.
The flashback to the circumstances of Pax’s mother’s death was shocking and heartbreaking. A lot of problems Pax has can be traced back to this event which he has somehow blocked from his memory. You can’t help but feel bad for the little kid who went through such a horrific tragedy at the age of 6. It is in a way understandable that Pax spirals after finding out what actually happened and finally knowing why he felt empty.
It was a straightforward love story but it had complex characters which you can’t help but root for. I liked the descriptions of this town on Lake Michigan; it had a community feel to it. The pace of the story doesn’t drop from start to finish which is always a plus. Once I started reading this book, I finished it almost in a day. I enjoyed reading this book.
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