REVIEW: Stay With Me by Elyssa Patrick
Dear Ms. Patrick:
I’ve been reading a ton of New Adult books lately (probably because of the sheer number of them that are being published), but your new book, Stay With Me, is one that stood out to me as particularly polished, featuring interesting characters and one of my favorite hero tropes: the Caregiving hero.
Hailey Bloom has been a star her entire life. She sings, she dances, she’s instantly recognizable all over the world (although presumably not for “twerking” a la Miley Cyrus). She’s decided to leave it all behind and go to college. It’s the first time in a really long time that she’s done anything at all just for herself. She didn’t consider the feelings of her controlling stage mother, her publicists, her fans, no one. She’s doing this for herself. But she’s having trouble getting over being “Hailey Bloom”.
When she arrives at Green College, she finds that the guys want to be the first to have nailed Hailey Bloom, and the girls don’t much like her because she’s famous and pretty, and all the guys want to be able to brag about having sex with a star. Her classes are much harder than she expected and her teachers assume that she’s been given everything in her life, so they are harder on her than she thinks is fair. One night, at a party, she steps outside to take a breather from being constantly scrutinized and finds herself on the back deck with Caleb Fox.
Caleb knows exactly who she is, but doesn’t treat her like she’s anything other than a pretty girl. He’s not star-struck, he’s not gushing, and he’s not making any particular moves on her. He’s kind, and offers her his jacket when she’s cold, and shields her from the interest of other guys who come outside looking for her. Make no mistake, he’s definitely attracted, as is Hailey, but he’s not pushy, and she likes that about him. But Hailey is at college to get a serious degree, and has no time for romance. She does share a kiss with him, but leaves the party directly afterwards.
Not one to give up on a girl who he thinks is a lot more than her public persona, Caleb decides to take action the next day when he literally bumps into Hailey at a farmers market, spilling tea on her. He takes her to his house to give her a dry t-shirt, and they end up having a very romantic encounter in his kitchen. Soon Hailey has met Caleb’s younger sister, who is also a freshman, and who strikes up an immediate friendship with Hailey, as well as most of his friends. And Hailey and Caleb begin a tentative and very sweet romance. Caleb woos Hailey with patience, care and respect. But when Hailey’s mother decides to snatch Hailey back into the limelight by telling secrets, Hailey’s instinct is to push away her love and the friends that she’s made. Will Caleb allow her to reject what they’re building? And will he be horrified when he learns more about Hailey’s past?
Because we are friendly on Twitter, I’ve read a number of books by you, and I think that your voice is particularly suited to New Adult. I found Hailey to be an interesting character, definitely damaged by the price of fame, but with a level of sweetness that made her likeable, even when she was pushing away the few who cared about her. Caleb is a dreamy beta hero. He’s not dominating in any way, but he’s determined to woo Hailey, and will not allow her to push him away. I found their romance to be quite charming.
My only complaints about the book would be that Caleb in particular is surrounded by a huge cast of friends, who clearly were sequel bait. And at times, I had a hard time keeping them straight. I also felt like I was missing a big confrontation between Hailey and her mother. I would have liked to have seen Hailey defend herself more against her mother, but I also thought her reaction rang true to her character. I just wished that Mommy Dearest had gotten what was coming to her.
Overall, I found Stay With Me to be a sweet and charming New Adult book that I enjoyed every moment of. I’m really looking forward to the next installment of the series. Final grade: B+.
I have been eyeballing this one for a while. I may have to take the plunge on the long weekend. I love me a beta hero!
Do the other girls really “hate her because she’s famous and pretty”? I read this trope ALL THE TIME, but I went to college with plenty of rich and famous and pretty people (I wasn’t one of them) and never saw it happen in real life.
I could buy the other girls being suspicious of her, maybe, and expecting her to be stuck up, but you’d think they’d get over it pretty quickly.
I love me some beta heros, but the casual misogyny of “girls are all mean jealous cats” might outweigh it.
@hapax: What you said. The celebrity side is interesting for about five minutes, then the whole dorm knows, then you get on with things and order a pizza. Or, at least, that was my experience IRL. I’m hoping the sample gives enough of a sense of which way the tone of this book goes. And, of course, if it’s partly her own insecurity and pre-judging perception of others, then I’d be willing to ride along and see how she develops and grows.
@hapax: Hm. Well, it’s a fair point. There’s never a scene with girls being nasty to her. It’s more about her perception that the girls don’t like her. Then again, she’s also pretty closed off and suspicious, just because of the fame thing and her experience with people wanting things from her.
It might not work for you, but I liked her. She was trying for a normal life, and discovered pretty quickly that being with Caleb and his friends made her feel normal, but most of the rest of her life did not. I thought it was handled deftly.
Kati, I couldn’t agree more with your review! I liked this NA book a lot, and am looking forward to more form this fun group of friends.
A friend of my son’s loved Stay With Me. We talked about the book recently and for her, Hailey’s issues with school and fame rang true.
She’s the seventeen yr. old non-glam smart and sensible daughter of celebrities. She’s also a beauty and the crap she’s had to deal with since middle-school would drive me to drink.
I’m wondering Hapax….was twitter and facebook around when you were in school? Everyone has a camera in their phone…..moms picking up their own kids from school or playgrounds are the worst perpetraters of selling photos of celeb kids. It’s not hard to believe college boys would find sport in nailing the famous girl and posting it on facebook. And FYI Mean Girls is not just a movie…..high school, middle-school, UCLA or Yale….they are there working their black magic.
Thanks for the review.