In a narrative spanning 102 days, Mack and CéCe, co-workers at a restaurant and co-narrators of the story, are set up by CéCe's brother, Anthony, and slowly hit it off. CéCe is heartbroken when Anthony joins the army, leaving her alone with their alcoholic mother, whose condition Griffin (The Orange Houses) delicately conveys with profound emotion. Mack, whose mother left him with a bitter alcoholic father, is gentle with the dogs he trains, but he's mentally disturbed—psychologically tormented by a hissing noise, "Like when you roll the radio to static and dial up the volume." When the hissing gets loud, generally as a reaction to injustice, Mack turns chillingly violent. As tension builds, readers will likely anticipate that this violence will ignite the conflict that brings Mack and CéCe's relationship to an end, but each step of that journey is authentic, painful, and heartfelt. Griffin's gift at giving voice to deeply flawed, disadvantaged characters without patronizing or oversimplifying their circumstances shines in this moving novel of loss, acceptance, and the possibility of redemption. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
The New York Times
"Griffin gracefully answers questions and solves mysteries, leaving us with hope and a smile without making things falsely shiny and bright."
* "Unique and genuine. This is romance but also true tragedy. Heart-wrenching."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
* "Sweet, sensual, utterly engrossing, drawing readers in with engagingly authentic dialogue and fully realized characters."
The Sunday Herald Sun
"Exquisite, unforgettable, an intense portrait of first love, family ties and the bond between man and dog."
" . . . a strong title in the competitive teen romance genre. With tragic Romeo-and-Juliet elements, this is a fast,paced, refreshingly honest, and surprisingly realistic urban love story."
Junior Library Guild
From the Publisher
"Griffin gracefully answers questions and solves mysteries, leaving us with hope and a smile without making things falsely shiny and bright." - The New York Times
* "A haunting story of love and heartbreak. Bittersweet, stellar, with genuine dialogue and drama, this book will appeal greatly to teens, especially dog lovers." - School Library Journal, starred review
* "Unique and genuine. This is romance but also true tragedy. Heart-wrenching." - Horn Book, starred review
* "Heartbreaking . . . extraordinary . . . vividly depicted through affecting prose and believable dialogue. Remarkable characters abound. Achingly, authentically emotionally resonant, this sad, never-saccharine tale will have absorbed readers reaching for the Kleenex. An outstanding love story." - Kirkus, starred review
* "Sweet, sensual, utterly engrossing, drawing readers in with engagingly authentic dialogue and fully realized characters." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
"Exquisite, unforgettable, an intense portrait of first love, family ties and the bond between man and dog." - The Sunday Herald Sun
"Realistic underlined. Will find its way to the 'favorites' shelf right next to S.E. Hinton's classic The Outsiders." - VOYA
"Authentic, painful, heartfelt. Griffin's gift shines in this moving novel of loss, acceptance, and the possibility of redemption." - Publishers Weekly
" . . . a strong title in the competitive teen romance genre. With tragic Romeo-and-Juliet elements, this is a fast,paced, refreshingly honest, and surprisingly realistic urban love story." - Booklist
Official selection - Junior Library Guild
VOYA - Ian Hourican
Stay with Me is a realistic fiction novel with a touch of romance. Mack has a way with dogs and takes in strays, while Cece is trying to find out what to do with her life. Both are sixteen, one is a high school dropout and the other an A student. This book starts off slowly with a confusing introduction but gets better when dogs come along. This reviewer recommends it for high school students because of sexual interactions. It can be enjoyed by both guys and girls. 2Q, 3P. Reviewer: Ian Hourican, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Lona Trulove
Realistic fiction with realistic underlined describes Stay with Me perfectly. Making an unlikely couple, CeCe, a shy, insecure A student falls in love with Mack, a high school dropout who has a special gift with animals (dogs in particular) and, unfortunately, a serious anger problem. CeCe helps to calm Mack, and Mack helps CeCe become more confident and overcome her fear of dogs, but a terrible mistake in the heat of the moment shatters everything. This is a well-written, true-to-life novel about growing up, trying to beat the odds of a tough life, and ultimately trusting and loving those around us. Given the intensity of their relationship both emotionally and sexually, as well as the violence, this story is best suited for junior or senior high school students. This book will find its way to the "favorites" shelf right next to books like S.E. Hinton's classic The Outsiders for most young adults. Although boys will enjoy this story, it will resonate with girls as they cheer and cry for the bad boy with a good heart. Reviewer: Lona Trulove
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
A good story always has well defined characters and tangled plot elements, including a strong sense of place. The story of Mack and Cecepronounced chee cheeis a sweet sad story full of hope. Mack is a high school drop out with an attitude and no self-confidence. He can't look anybody in the eye, but he's good with dogs and is forever retraining abandoned pit bulls. He has two jobs: one working in Vic's restaurant at whatever job Vic gives him and the other walking dogs. His best friend at the restaurant is Tony, Cece's older brother. He's been trying to get Mack and his sister together, but Mack is resistant to the idea. Tony and Vic and then Cece believe in Mack even though he doesn't believe in himself. Through Cece's love, Mack begins to control his temper and feel hopeful about his future. But when his neighbor poisons Mack and Cece's dog, Mack beats him to death. Sentenced to life imprisonment, Mack tries to push Cece away. When he is befriended by one of the guards, Mack finds a purpose in life. He is allowed to train service dogs; the first one going to the now crippled Tony. This is a powerful book and good a jumping off point for a discussion of choices and their consequences. Even reluctant-reader teen boys can relate to this book. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Céce doesn't think much of herself. Although she is studying to take a gifted and talented test, works part time at Vic's pizza shop, and patiently looks out for her alcoholic mother, it isn't until she meets Mack, a fellow employee, that she begins to notice her strengths. When her older brother ships off to boot camp, he asks Mack to look after his sister. Timid Mack cannot even look her in the eye (or anyone else for that matter), but he agrees to help, and Céce begins to fall for the handsome, sensitive teen. Even though Mack has dropped out of school and has learning problems, she sees past that to the sweet boy who rehabilitates abused pit bulls, who has dreams and shares secrets, and who is also battling an oppressive home life. She overcomes her fear of dogs and is ready to open her heart to a rescue animal. A romance ensues, one that is as passionate and frantic as first love often is. Then Mack, who has anger issues, strikes out at a vindictive neighbor and changes everything. Told in alternating chapters between the two teens over the span of just 102 days, Griffin's novel weaves a haunting story of love and heartbreak. Céce's transformation is realistic and bittersweet as she moves from "Who am I without him?" to a girl who dreams her own dreams. And although Mack's actions are brutal, one cannot help but feel empathy for him and hope for his redemption via his work training service dogs. A stellar story, with genuine dialogue and drama, this is a book that will appeal greatly to teens, especially dog lovers.—Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, East Columbus, NJ
Their relationship is doomed from the start.
For 15-year-olds Céce and Mack, it's nearly love at first sight—not an easy feat, since they're so remarkably different. He's a dyslexic dropout with a police record. She's an excellent student, studying for an entrance exam to a gifted-and-talented program. Each comes from a hard-drinking, single-parent family, although Céce's mother exudes heartfelt affection while Mack's father is a misanthropic hate-monger. When provoked, Mack's anger is nearly uncontrollable, yet his transcendent sensitivity toward Céce and the pit bulls he rescues and cares for is extraordinary. Pushed together by Céce's brother, the heartbreaking depth of their relationship is vividly depicted through affecting prose and believable dialogue. After Mack gets into serious trouble, their resulting separation marks the end; each of them has to find a way to continue on, horribly damaged, but not destroyed. Remarkable characters abound: Vic, the wily fellow who employs them both in his quirky restaurant; Anthony, Céce's brave older brother; Wash, a compassionate prison guard; Mr. Thompkins, an impatient, drill-sergeant on a mission; and, notably,a pair of slobbering, devoted pit bulls. Even a too-convenient climax doesn't detract but rather gives readers and characters the relief they need. Achingly, authentically emotionally resonant, this sad, never-saccharine tale related in alternating voices will have absorbed readers reaching for the Kleenex.
An outstanding love story peopled by a wealth of memorable characters. (Fiction. 14 & up)
This funny, wrenching, often heartbreaking novel,…brings contemporary characters and authentic street atmosphere, not to mention dogs and dysfunction, to the age-old story of two teenagershere, same side of the tracks but different ends of the academic spectrumin the bliss of first love…Griffin gracefully answers questions and solves mysteries, leaving us with hope and a smile without making things falsely shiny and bright.
The New York Times Book Review