Stay with Me

Paul Griffin. Dial, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3448-7

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.)