If You Stay: Courtney Cole

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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?

"He's a trust fund baby; a spoiled brat who doesn't have to be responsible. Apparently, he's a mess. A true bad boy. He would eat you for breakfast."

I have been in a bad book funk, like really bad. That is until I opened up to the first page of If You Stay. Damn, my first introduction to Pax Tate was all up in your face, and I think I may be in love. The first chapter was one of those that made you think, holy hell, did she really just go there?! Well, yes Courtney Cole went there and then some. She opened with a bang. Left you with the feeling that you can't turn the pages and devour the words fast enough.  From the first page I was captivated by Pax, that man is raw, uncensored, flawed, and well to be honest he isn't very likable (and that is sugar coating it ladies!). I just didn't see how the author was going to redeem him.  

"I don't know why. I don't even know him. But being thrown into this intense situation makes me feel connected to him. It's a stupid notion, but I can't help feeling it. Even though the only thing I really know about him is his name.  Pax."

"All I know is...I’m drawn to her. She's everything that I'm not and it fascinates the hell out of me." 

Mila and Pax had an interesting introduction; maybe unique would be a better word.  They are the definition of opposites attract. Yet, there is an instant connection between them. An intense attraction that draws them to each other. Their relationship is gritty, it is real, and it moves at a fast pace. I would describe their time together as beautiful chaos. There was no shortage of angst, uncertainty, and the relationship between Mila and Pax shouted proceed with caution.

"I'm f***ed up," he says bluntly and I can't help but smile a little. "I want to be completely honest with you. I'm seriously f***ed up."

Pax Alexander Tate was a pure head-trip. His present is dark, his past is even darker, and his future well that is up for debate. He fills the void with drugs, alcohol, and sex. Our resident bad boy sees nothing wrong with this, why because he isn't an addict. He can stop at any time (this was a major issue of mine...years of use and he isn't an addict? Not very believable). Pax gives the word crass a completely new definition and even worse, he has no concern or remorse for the consequences of his actions. He does what he wants, with a who the hell cares attitude. Pax answered to nobody. That is until one night his out of control ways finally catch up with him.

"Are you trying to find some sort of reason that I've become such an a**hole? The reason is...I'm an a**hole. There are some things in life that can't be explained. Period. A**holes are a**holes. Rainbows are pretty. Kittens are cute. Chick flicks are sad. It's the way of things, no explanations."

Reading the story from inside his mind at times was scary, intense, and eye opening. The lack of emotions and coldness that flowed off the pages at times knew no boundaries. His point of view helped to provide different dimensions to his character. It also allowed us to see past whom he presented on the surface and permitted the reader to connect with him on a much deeper level.  Pax was damaged and scarred, a complete and total mess who screwed up at every turn. Beyond his tough exterior and bad boy ways, you got glimpses of a broken and fragile man. Tate is a master at avoidance, something he isn't able to hide behind forever. It's not long before his damaged and tragic past starts seeping through and there isn't enough  women, sex, and drugs in the world to to hide behind when the truth is finally revealed..

"You can't change a person, Mila. Not ever. A person will always be what they are."

I liked Mila. I thought she made a good heroine for Pax, it's just I found that the push and pull became too much at times between them. Her constant running and uncertainty grated on my nerves and I felt slowed down the story for me towards the middle. Mila definitely had reason to be nervous and on her toes, but sooner or later you have to set that aside and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. She decided to be with Pax, which meant she took the good with the bad. Her eyes were wide open when she entered into their commitment. Pax's dirty laundry was on display and he busted his ass to change and become a better person for her.  I won't lie and say there weren't times that I didn't shake my head at her running again. She grew on me when she wasn't running. One of the things I adored about Mila was her protective nature. When Maddy rode her over and over again about Pax, Mila didn’t judge. She stood up for him, letting it be known she loved Pax and would do whatever she needed to do to make them work. In my opinion, she was at her best in the beginning and at the end, both times when Pax needed her the most she stood tall and strong.

"It was a long time ago," I answer simply. "I've put it to bed."

"Have you?" He replies. "You must be talented. Sometimes, the past doesn't want to sleep."

"That's true," I admit. "You're right. Sometimes, at the least opportune times, the past is an insomniac, alive and well." 

 Mila had her own obstacles, her own pain to deal with, but when they started to delve into Pax's past a bit deeper, . His past was shocking to me, I actually gasped out loud. His repressed memories were intense, dark and raw.  The truth was not one I imagined, nor was it one he imagined. My heart broke as I watched Pax shut down and slam up his walls, his pain was so intense his initial reaction was to seek some form of emptiness. His hard earned journey of redemption slide backwards and Pax went right back to his old habits. Sometimes the pain is easier to handle with what comes natural to you. Filling that pain and that void with avoidance was all Pax knew, comfort was seeked in the only way he knew how, drugs and alcohol. He forgot about the beauty he found with Mila. 

Over all I liked the book, there were moments I wasn't too sure, but Pax won me over. Yes, there were some unrealistic things, the flow was not always there, but I loved the concept that love and a second chance at life can over come even the darkest days. The first 2 chapters and  Pax's lost and damaged character worked enough for me that I decided to look past all that and rate this book a four. I settled in and enjoyed the story for what it was.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Hopeless in exchange for an honest opinion.


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