“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it”. ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958
I have read a fair amount of books in the past year, and any of you who have read some of my first posts will know that I have a slight, or rather, considerable obsession with words, both previously written, and those haunting my own brain. So I thought maybe this would be a good time to share with you one of my more recent reads that has stuck with me.
The book is a fairly recently published one, of the YA variety. I found it while wandering between the stacks in my local library (one of my favorite activities). The title, /Stay With Me/ by Paul Griffin had me reaching for it at first glance. What can I say, it sounded like a desperate love story. I am a major sucker for a good tragic love story. The book fell good in my hand, and the cover was intriguing enough (Looking through a chain link fence you see two lovers pressed together in a kiss, a pit-bull lying, smiling, at their feet) to encourage me to crack the spine. After scanning the synopsis I knew that this would be one of the beautiful darlings that I would be taking home with me for a few weeks. It only took be two days (or should I say nights, I don’t really have time during the school days to read) to finish, and I was left breathless, and wanting more.
This novel was the perfect mix between character, and plot driven story arcs. For the plot side of things, we started with the meeting. That slow, slightly hesitant and utterly confusing game of the beginning of relationships. Then the actual romance, following by the tragedy. The one moment that changed everything. Within just a few pages the author had the entire course of the plot turned on its ear, leaving the reader with a feeling of helplessness and sorrow for the characters. I thought there was no possible way that the author could wrap this story up into a satisfying perfect little package… I thought it would be a lifetime movie imprinted within the pages of the book. And I was right, in a way. This book had all the elements of a lifetime movie that keeps me up at three am almost every Saturday throughout my summers, but instead of the inevitable cliff hanger ending that wraps things up in the most unsatisfying way, Griffin pulls it together at the last moment, throwing in a twist I definitely could not foresee, but made so much sense if you had keyed in to his little hints. I have a lot of respect for his ability to pull this story together. It may not have ended the way I was hoping for, but really, it was much /much/ better. (sorry I’m being vague, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you)
This book was so much more than a love story. It was a journey of friendships, of the fine line between right and wrong, of what really makes a good person, of a boys love for dogs, and of the characters relationships with each other, their family, and the world. I feel the best type of book is the kind that makes you feel as though you are an intruder; like you are spying and eavesdropping on the lives of these people. It almost gives you this sense of shame for doing so, but you are so caught up in the world that you are not able to focus on that. Griffin does a great job at this, giving you bits and pieces of the story, letting you clutch onto perfectly timed back story presents, and allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions, with just a gentle, subtle, perfectly crafted hand on the small of your back, guiding you along.
In a lot of novels you read now a days you are likely to get either plot or characters, but almost instantly you are introduced to this spectacular, flawed, and interesting cast. The story is told from two perspectives. First we have Mack, a tough closed off fifteen year old who has trouble looking people in the eye. He has a potent loathing for violence, yet his quick to fire temper completely embodies that. The boy is shy, a little bit of a slow learner, which has caused him to drop out of school, but he is so sweet. There is this soft spot for the underdog that only a few can see. He has a habit of picking dogs up off the street, specifically after they’ve been in dog fights, and taking them home to train them. Mack allows very few people to see this side of him, while actively hiding it from all others.
Then there is Cece; the smart, sassy, opinionated girl with a great love for cheesecake and all things food, and a major fear of dogs. We meet her as she is studying for this big test that could place her in a prestigious high school and on her way up and out of her town.
Together they are perfect, yet complete opposites. She’s straight forward and sharp, where he is shy and closed off. She has the world on a string and can do and go anywhere she pleases, while he has potential that is likely to never be nurtured, making his life seem to be stuck in place, if not going backward. They are each others’ yin and yang.
They are supported by a handful of vivid persons. There’s Vic, the wise old owner of the restaurant they both work at, who seems to have an uncanny knowledge of what everyone needs, whether they know it or not. Anthony, Cece’s older brother who is an all around good guy and has a gift and strong desire to make people happy. Along with their mother who is an alcoholic, Mack’s father who is gruff and also an alcoholic, and a handful of other minor characters.
What really makes this book so good, so memorable though, is the voice of each of these characters. Griffin has an ear for how people really talk, and his characters are so unique and amazing. You’ll have to read this to see what I mean, but his words truly jump off the page. It was a really great book.
((All this being said I would like to mention that this book is very biased, and I suggest you read it to make your own conclusions and opinions about it. I hope you aren’t disappointed.))
Well, that’s all for now. So until next time, Keep on Dreaming &*)