Stay by Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 5th, 2011
Page Count: 313
Source/Format: Library book!
Keywords: abusive relationship, escape, ghosts
Clara has learned that it's fairly easy to get away. She assesses a problem with her famous crime novelist father. He rents a house on the coast of a sleepy seaside town. They go. She integrates. Makes friends even. But what Clara isn't so sure of, is how easy it is to keep someone away. Her ex-boyfriend, Christian, is back in her hometown, and like all of her friends, he has no idea where she ran off to. Clara has a tingling, nagging suspicion that he will find out, and soon ruin this seaside haven that she has found. She can't help but feel she's being watched everywhere she goes. And as Clara struggles with the living ghost that haunts her every move, she realized that she's not the only one in her family that had reason to escape.
Holy moly, I was not expecting this book to do what it did. Clara tells us her story with alternating chapters, switching back and forth between her life with her father in this new home they have carved out for themselves, and her relationship with Christian. She tells us straight up that shit has gotten real, and it was too dangerous for her to stay at their house. The shifts of story with each chapter kept me hooked. It is a slow build, I will say that. Just because once I knew things were dangerous for Clara, I wanted to know right then and there what the hell was going on. I was shaking my fists at Deb Caletti like "yoooo why are you going to tell me this and then make me wait?!" The slow build paid off in the end, because each storyline starts escalating at about the same time. As Clara is telling us about the sweet start to her relationship with Christian, things in the seaside town seem refreshing and like a new start. As shit starts to get real in her relationship, she starts uncovering some family secrets, and it all starts to come to a head at the same damn time making it unputdownable at the end. I was up so late reading just to finish this book.
First off, I've never told this story to anyone. Not the entire thing anyway, and not entirely truthfully. I'm only telling it now for one reason, and that's because an untold story has a weight that can submerge you, sure as a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. I learned that. This kind of story, those kind of things kept secret--they have the power to keep you hidden forever, and most of all from yourself. The ghosts from that drowned ship, they keep haunting.
Reading Christian's character transformation was eerie. He and Clara meet at a basketball game, share an intense few seconds of locked eyes, connect outside, and the rest is history. At first he seems perfect. He's handsome, in that pale European kind of way. His mother is from Europe and his step-father is from the South so he has a unique accent. He's smart. It doesn't take long, though, for Clara to see that he's incredibly jealous, and she starts having to watch what she says or who she hangs out with. She finds herself lying to keep him from saying harsh things or reacting too strongly. I appreciated that Deb Caletti treated the relationship as an abusive one, and we don't lose sight of that. (Is it anyone else's pet peeve when a relationship is abuse and no one calls it out?!) Clara has her father's eyes on Christian, her friend's eyes on him, and she herself knows that this isn't typical boyfriend behavior. But we also get to see why she struggles with just ditching him and leaving. The Christian we get to know at the beginning of the book is not the same Christian we get to know at the end of the book and it was downright scary, and the suspense of his character and what would happen next pushed me to read into the wee hours of the morning.
"Possession Point, Dad? Jesus."
"I didn't know," he said. "How was I supposed to know?"
"Obsession? Possession? Deception Point? You're telling me it's all an accident? How many places could we have gone?"
"Swear to God, Pea," he held up his hand. "I'd have to be a sick bastard to knowingly put us in a house on Possession Point."
I also really appreciated the other stories that were packed into Stay. Each one was rich with characterization and there for a purpose. There are a lot of ghosts in this town. From alleged shipwrecks and the suicidal wives of captains, to the backstories of each of these characters and why they chose to run away to this town as well. One thing that did bother me just a tad was Clara's fast attachment to a boy in this town. Here she is, running away from this psycho, everything reminds her of him, and then she dives in headfirst with the first handsome boy he sees and she makes a very quick and strong attachment to him. I did like that he was a prime example of how a boyfriend should be, especially since she has had not one but two abusive relationships. I just didn't like that they meet and right away she's trying to see him when she goes out and build a romantic relationship with him.
But what I knew even more than that was that he was the jealous type. That's how I thought of it. As if the words were small print, equal to other qualities a person might have--the athletic type. The creative type. The type to get easily lost or be late, or didn't like food that was too different. It meant that you made accommodations, you got directions beforehand or told him the concert was earlier or picked a place to eat that had hamburgers or didn't say things that would hurt him. You didn't even tell him the truth about who you were or what you had done. You protected him, kept things from him he couldn't handle. Or else protected yourself from what he couldn't handle. You managed it all, like someone who works in an office and who types and answers the phone at the same time.
Stay by Deb Caletti is a gripping read that perfectly illustrates the dangerous line between an attentive and protective boyfriend, and a hawk-eyed possessive boyfriend. She also shows us why it might not be so easy to leave someone that is clearly not good for you. Not only does the book give an accurate portrayal of this kind of relationship, but there is the drama of broken family histories, what happens when secrets stay secrets for too long, and whether or not it's possible to get rid of the ghosts that haunt us every day.