A dyslexic dropout with a gift for training dogs collides with a honor student and the result is an enchanting first love - until as with any boy-meets-girl story - something goes terribly wrong.
Paul Griffin's latest gritty urban fiction Stay With Me unfolds on the streets of New York and stars 15 year olds, Mack Morse and Céce Vaccuccia - each the product of a single parent household that share a common bond of alcohol dependency, but at least Céce's mother is still maternal and caring, she just happens to be a self-medicating addict who engages in heavy episodic drinking to dull the painful worry of her son being away in the war …Whereas, Mack's abusive, alcoholic father is just a hateful mean so-and-so whose objectionable disposition intensifies with booze.
The story is told in alternating perspectives, by Mack and Céce over the span of 102 days, and through their voices, Griffin uses dramatic dialogue to illustrate the profundity of their relationship. Though he is kind-hearted with a passion for tough-talking Céce and incredible compassion for the rescue dogs he trains, Mack is fueled with uncontrollable anger which will evidently be his undoing. Céce is a cheesecake-hoarding exceptional student, studying for an entrance exam to a gifted-and-talented program. She is slightly obsessed with the movie, The Outsiders and is under the impression she has ESP - according to her Grumpy had it and she bears the curse doubly because it skipped over her mother. And best/worst of all, Céce is totally crushing on Mack.
Also featured in the story is an array of notable characters: Céce's friend Marcy is beyond amusing she is downright hilarious and truly exemplifies the characteristics of an actual teenage girl. Vic, is the Italian restaurant owner who employs them both; Anthony, Céce’s brave football-star-turned-line-cook older brother enlists in the military; Wash, a compassionate prison guard; Mr. Tompkins, a less-than patient, drill-sergeant on a mission; and, a colossal headed pit-bull, Boo. These secondary characters have been well-crafted by Griffin with believability and help bring the story to life.
The quirky characters and devoted lovable dog are the beacons that help illuminate this otherwise heartbreaking coming of age love story, which is reminiscent of a made-for-TV movie wedged between 288 pages. Although targeted toward ages 14 and up, due to some content, this book would be more appropriate for readers ages 16 and older.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Stay With Me by Paul Griffin
Publication Date: September 8, 2011
Reviewed by Chrystal Dorsey