A well written and touching story, Stay With Me tugged at my heartstrings. This realistic coming of age book has a compelling story, vivid characters, and lovable rescue dogs. I was hooked on this emotional story immediately and found it to be a moving and inspiring read.Our protagonists’ story is told over 102 days. Céce (pronounced Chee Chee) and Mack are 15 and in the throes of first love. Even though they are from different worlds, they are drawn to each other and spend every moment they can together. Mack has a big heart but a troubled past. He comes from a broken home and struggles with anger management. Spending time with Céce and her brother Anthony, and working and training rescue dogs have helped him to stay out of trouble. His problems come back in a big way though and he and Céce must try to cope through it.This author has a great way with writing characters. There is a wonderful cast of imperfect characters written with colorful details that make them come alive. My heart ached for Mack and I was rooting for him to succeed. His gifted way with training dogs is a treat to read. Mack struggles with anger, family drama, and a learning disability but has dreams to someday work training dogs professionally. Céce is an A-student who studies her vocabulary for the gifted and talented exam, indulges by sneaking pieces of cheesecake at her workplace, loves The Outsiders movie, and thinks she may have ESP. Together they have chemistry and mesh well together. I like that the story is told in alternating perspectives and I enjoyed each of their character voices equally.The secondary characters are well drawn and help bring the story to life. Anthony is Céce’s perfect beloved older brother and Mack’s friend. He enlists in the military and she worries about him constantly. Céce’s mother changes her hair color as often as she comes up with new holiday themed cornbread recipes. She worries about her son and is drinking to soothe the pain. Vic is the restaurant owner with the heart of gold that is the glue that keeps them together. All of the characters are endearingly flawed and won me over with their quirky character traits.I think many readers will relate to insecure Céce and her embarking on first love, dealing with family difficulties, and striving to succeed academically. She is written in a sweet, sensitive and flawed way that is endearing. Although Mack has some big problems, readers can relate to his struggles, his good heart and his love for dogs.Although the story is heartbreaking in many ways, there are some rays of hope that keep it from being too dark. The conclusion is satisfying, yet bittersweet and a perfect end to the story. This emotional read hit me in the gut with the realistic story and wonderful cast of characters. Recommended for older teens due to mature situations, this realistic book is an emotional and beautiful read. This story of heart and redemption is a treat and I’m so glad I had the chance to read it. Keep an eye out for Stay With Me this fall.