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?
*I received an ARC in exchange for a review*
I knew I’d love If You Stay because #1 Courtney Cole wrote it, and #2 I love a good asshole! But I was blown away with how much I loved all of the characters and their story! Everything about it was fantastic
Pax is an asshole and he knows it. He doesn’t apologize for it. But as you start to get to know him you start to realize he’s not as assholish as he’d like you to think he is…he’s more lonely than anything and believes in self medicating on frequent doses of coke, Jack and colorful pills to escape the loneliness of his reality; his Mom died when he was a little kid in a car accident (or so he thinks) and after that his Dad moved them away and then kind of ignored him growing up. So understandably so, my poor Pax has issues.
Mila on the other hand, after losing both her parents in a car accident, is seeming well adjusted and finds her escape in her artwork, she owns her own shop and turns her photographs into paintings. It’s due to her photography she meets Pax; one night she was on the beach taking pictures and she happened to notice a car parked in the lot with the doors open and when she went to investigate she discovered Pax passed out cold, covered in his vomit reeking of whiskey. Like any normal person she panicked and pulled him out of the car and called 911…now here’s where I realized Mila was a far greater person than I am…while waiting for the paramedics to come Pax became distressed and Mila gave him mouth to mouth!!! Now compressions, yes, I would’ve certainly done that but mouth to mouth on a stranger who’s visibly thrown up all over them self oh no!
Turns out Pax OD’d and earned himself a stay in the hospital during which time Mila comes to visit him, even though he’s sedated, until the one day she comes and he’s finally awake. I loved the moment Pax first laid his eyes on Mila
“My gaze flickers upward and finds a girl standing there. She’s staring at me with clear, dark eyes and she’s holding a vase of flowers. And she’s fu*king beautiful. My gut tightens in response. Holy shit.”
After that meeting neither one of them can stop thinking about the other. Pax goes out of his way to see her again and starts to think that maybe, he’s found a reason to change his habits. Even though Pax doesn’t think he’s able to love anyone or deserves anyone’s love in return he wants to try like hell to be the kind of guy Mila deserves. Pax and Mila are just incredible on their own but together they’re amazing. There’s so much more to them than what’s on the surface and it was terrific getting to discover what’s underneath. I loved seeing the change in Pax and seeing him grow and take advantage of the second chance he was given.
Courtney has given us her best love story yet, you can’t escape the emotional pull you feel for these two. Mila is one of her strongest characters to date, with all of Pax’s ups and downs she’s by his side, during his hypnosis session where the memories of what really happened to his mom come out she’s by his side, when he falls back into old habits and pushes her away, she’s still there for him supporting him and encouraging him. She’s the only one who’s never given up on him. She’s the only one who believes in him even when he doesn’t believe in himself. If You Stay is a beautiful story of unconditional love and it shows just how much the simple act of loving another person can make a huge difference.