Stay: Reviews « Deb Caletti
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Stay: Reviews

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Clara has just graduated from high school, and her intense relationship with Christian is over, but he cannot accept that reality. The more he pushes and pleads, the more she pulls away. When Clara and her writer-father go to the coast for the summer without telling anyone, she begins to come to grips with Christian’s obsession. Making friends with local sailor Finn Bishop helps Clara see herself more clearly and confront the damage of the relationship. Told in Clara’s clear, poignant voice, with occasional revealing footnotes from the narrator, Caletti’s prose is at its best. The real Washington State locales of Deception Pass and Possession Point seem to be used deliberately, but readers won’t mind the coincidence. Finn serves as a lovely foil to Christian, and a subplot involving Clara’s father and dead mother adds depth. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen’s books, especially Dreamland (2000), this is a moving tale of a young woman learning how to love, to live, and to forgive.
— Melissa Moore

Publishers Weekly
To escape her obsessive ex-boyfriend, Clara and her single father spend the summer in a rented house in a small beach community called Bishop Rock. In alternating chapters, she recounts her increasingly frightening relationship with controlling Christian, as well as her attempts to recover, now that “no one back home knew where I was.” In this gripping, layered novel, Clara is stalked, first by cell phone and later in person, by Christian. Clara is also haunted by her own feelings of culpability: “The thing is, it can feel good to make someone lose all control.” She is not the only one with ghosts: the legends of Bishop Rock are full of them, and many people around her have chilling stories, including her father, a “smart-ass” writer hiding a big family secret. Clara’s unease mounts as she grapples with her emotions surrounding the past and the impending threat of Christian’s arrival. Fear has made Clara a fiercely good observer of detail, and Caletti’s powerfully descriptive prose serves her character well, as she provides insight into ideas about love, power, and who we forgive. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)

Kirkus Reviews
A dissection of an unhealthy, obsessive relationship as seen in its aftermath. Clara catches Christian’s eye from across a crowded gymnasium, and they quickly become an exclusive couple. However, Clara soon realizes that exclusivity can have its downsides, as Christian’s devotion takes a frightening turn and he begins stalking Clara. To protect his daughter and to give her “a place to breathe for a while,” Clara’s father whisks her away to a sleepy coastal town without notifying anyone of their new location. Through chapters that alternate between Clara’s present life at the beach and her rocky relationship with Christian, readers bear witness to Clara’s attempts to confront her fear and grow. Adding layers of depth to this text and its characters are several auxiliary relationships, including a dynamic bond between Clara and her father, that all with time are seamlessly woven together. Quirky footnotes are sprinkled throughout attempting to inject humor and tidbits of background to illuminate Clara’s past; however, they are often disruptive and easily skipped. Despite salty language, sex and violence are not graphically depicted, making this a safe read for younger teens. While her story’s not particularly new, Calletti knows her audience and tells it well. (Fiction. 12-15)

Children’s Literature
Clara Oates has a boyfriend problem. Last year’s boyfriend was a slacker. This year’s is so dangerously obsessed with her that, as the book opens, Clara and her father, a crime writer, are escaping from their home in Seattle to a small fishing town on the coast. The novel is told in chapters that alternate between flashbacks of her relationship with Christian during her senior year of high school, and the present, the summer following graduation. Although readers learn in the second chapter that Clara has safely extricated herself from Christian, suspense remains high. How badly did he mistreat her? How will she recover emotionally from a relationship that was both alluring and frightening? Caletti speaks directly and convincingly to her readers about the obsession that the teens feel for each other. And, as narrator, Clara speaks directly also through first-person narrative and clever footnoted asides. A sub-plot concerns her father and his growing relationship with two women in town, especially Sylvie, for whom Clara works, both of whom he knew many years ago. Clara senses that they know something about her mother’s death, which she has been told was caused by an aneurysm. When her father confesses that he had an affair with Sylvie and that Clara’s mother committed suicide, she does not want to listen. But, because untold stories have a weight that can drown you, she knows she must. By the end of the summer, following a harrowing (if trite) scene with Christian on a stormy beach, father and daughter decide to stay in the small town as each pursues healthy new relationships and Clara decides what to do next. Dialogue includes some swearing, and there are references, though no explicit descriptions, of sex scenes. This is a rich, believable story with important but not heavy-handed lessons.
—Cynthia Levinson

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Interweaving a young woman’s past and present experiences in alternating chapters, this novel reveals how Clara’s romance with Christian tips slowly but inexorably toward obsession during her junior and senior years of high school. After graduation, Clara and her father slip off to a Washington beach town in secret to escape her now ex-boyfriend’s frightening and unpredictable reach into her current life. In this cunningly crafted narrative, readers will slowly come to understand the danger posed by the cute Scandinavian boy who swept Clara off her feet and how what feels like love can crack and crumble when an insecure and possessive guy won’t accept their breakup. Her summer job at a lighthouse and the friends she and her father meet, especially Finn, who sails his family’s tourist boat with his brother, make Clara hopeful about the future. The suspense rises like the tide while readers applaud the teen’s healthy new life and relationships but fear that she hasn’t seen the last of the unstable and unpredictable Christian. Characters and new love ring true and would make this fine chick lit in and of itself, but the looming specter of the ex-boyfriend finding Clara makes it a novel with an appealing edge. Fear tinges this summer romance and underscores the issue of abusive and claustrophobic relationships among teens.
—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA