If You Stay - Courtney Cole (2013)

Pax Tate craves oblivion, he whiles away his days (and nights) getting wasted and picking up a certain class of women at local bars. But he doesn't care, it's what he needs to escape and one night he almost goes too far. Until Mila Hill, a local artist, happens upon him and saves his life. When Pax sees the beautiful girl who rescued him, he finally has a reason to pick himself up and become a better person. But is that enough? The opening chapter of this novel lets you know that you're in for something special. Raw, honest and unflinchingly gritty, it shows the stark reality of Pax's life and sets you on an epic ride. Whilst Mila is a cute, girl-next-door heroine and perfectly loveable, it's Pax who emerges as the real hero of this novel and a worthy one at that. Together, the pair are perfect; a great New Adult duo. At times, I would have liked Pax's struggle with drugs and drink to have been explored as deeply as his demons and as starkly as the opening chapter and for there to be more of a battle in him over giving them up, but the author makes clear this is not a story of addiction so it's somewhat justified. The novel also speeds quite quickly through the final few chapters to the ending. However, it's a really beautiful conclusion and overall this is one of the best New Adult reads of the year. And I'm so glad that although this is part of the Beautifully Broken series, Pax and Mila's story is a standalone. The novel is perfect in its isolation and anything else would have compromised this. I'm a bit wary then of book 2, which focuses on Mila's older sister Madison, because this is such a darn hard act to follow. But if she's done it once, I've no doubt Courtney Cole can do it again in If You Leave. (JC)

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