Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
A dark, romantic novel of love and obsession from National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti. Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he’s willing to do to make her stay. Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough...
Stay is the story of a naïve teenage girl who falls in love with a handsome guy. Their relationship is intense from the start – Clara can’t bear the thought of being without Christian, and Christian can’t bear being without Clara. Everything is rainbows and sunshine for a while. They’re so in love and so perfect for each other, but slowly, Christian starts showing his true nature. He becomes jealous and possessive and starts telling Clara what to do and what not to wear. Clara discovers that breaking up with Christian is not so easy, because he’ll do anything for them to be together again.
“It was clear I was standing beside Christian on the highest ledge of a building. I was looking down. I could see the street way, way below and the tiny people and the tiny cars honking: I could feel the cement wall under my hands and the sick feeling in my stomach. Doing what I needed to do to get off safely – it surely meant Christian would jump.”
The story is divided into two parts: Clara and her dad have left town to escape Christian, and they’re attempting to build a new life in Bishop Rock. Her dad tries to write a book and Clara tries to forget about Christian. A young lad called Finn makes the forgetting a whole lot easier. Clara also tells the reader about her relationship with Christian – how everything was perfect in the beginning, and how, after a while, things started to escalate. They were together for at least two years before Clara got tired of being a doormat. Christian does not take this news very well. The two stories intertwine when the threat of Christian returns: he’s got her new phone number, and he knows where she is.
I liked that the two separate stories became one in the end. Despite the length of the build-up being longer than the actual story, I liked the slowly building tension of the dooming relationship, and not immediately knowing what happened between Clara and Christian. The story subtly played out to reveal tiny imperfections at first, and showed those growing into big faults in the end, turning her fairy tale into a nightmare.
The meeting between Clara and Christian was ridiculous. They just lock eyes during a basketball game, there’s the clichéd electric current running through her body, they exchange two sentences, and it is a done deal. From that moment on, she is completely sold and is already picturing them living together. She repeats that Christian was not the only person tightly holding on – she, too, wanted nothing more than keep him with her forever. I often found myself wondering why Clara put up with Christian’s bullshit. He becomes insanely jealous and starts accusing Clara of things she didn’t do, like look at other guys (THE HORROR), and sleep around. “You’re probably sleeping with him too” is one of his favourite things to say to his precious girlfriend, because she’s such a strumpet. The guy can’t even stand the idea of her mouth touching someone else’s, let alone something else. You heard me. Christian explicitly states that he can’t stand the thought of Clara’s mouth touching pizza.
Their break-up was pretty traumatic. Imagine my surprise when the first thing Clara does when she arrives in the new town is exactly what Christian was always so afraid of – she jumps into the arms of the first guy she sees. She was there to be away from Christian, someone who had psychologically manipulated and blackmailed her for two years. He verbally abused her and even threw a glass at her because she feigned seducing someone else just to spite him. He stalked her and hinted that he would commit suicide. You don’t just heal from that, but she couldn’t resist this sailor. Now, Finn was pretty charming. He was sweet and funny and obviously cared for Clara, but that guy was smoother than an eel in a bucket of snot.
“I want to let you know that whatever the word is that’s more appropriate than love right now… I whatever-that-word-is you.”
I can’t believe she fell for that.
The relationship between Clara and her father was a joy to behold. He is always cheerful and optimistic, which is exactly what Clara needs after what happened. But even her ever-joyful father is hiding a secret from her, which added a lot of unnecessary drama towards the end. I would’ve preferred it if the drama had come from Christian. The ending left me disappointed. There was a big build-up for the final conflict, except the final conflict wasn’t really a conflict. The book lacked a definite ending. Clara actually confirms this, saying stories like this don’t usually have a satisfying ending, but it really needed one.
Many people love the writing in Stay, but I often rolled my eyes. There were definitely some beautiful passages, but a lot of the time, it felt like the author was trying too hard, which led to some pretty weird sentences:
“In the kitchen, dad’s back was to me. It seemed like a complex back. It had years of experiences I would never know.”
Who on Earth says things like “he had a complex back”? What does that even mean?
“It was a blue sky day and the ocean just kept being the ocean – wide and consistent, in and out, in and out, bringing its little presents to the shore and taking them back again.”
There was a lot of this. “The ocean just kept being the ocean”, “my purse was still a purse”, etc. A lot of redundant phrases just to drag out a sentence and make it sound poetic, which didn’t really work for me. Too presumptuous.
In the end, I thought it was a good story, but it lacked a decent beginning and a definite ending. I would classify it as a “lightweight abuse story”, because there aren’t many graphic scenes and Christian was definitely a lot nicer than your average stalker. But don’t let that fool you – you still wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley or anything. Stay away from him, because if you don’t, you’ll never be allowed to eat pizza ever again. And you don’t want that, do you?