Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
Published by Crown, an imprint of Random House
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours
Patrick Cusimano is not having an easy time of things as he enters his mid-twenties: he works the overnight shift at a shady convenience store, his father is in jail for murder, and suddenly he is finding himself obsessing over his older brother’s live-in girlfriend, Caro. In addition, seventeen-year-old goth girl Layla Elshere has decided to become his friend, a fact that Patrick knows is probably wrong (due to the age difference) but for whatever reason, he can’t shake this girl.
Layla’s younger sister, Verna, is having a terrible first year of high school – her older sister’s deviant ways and her parents’ ultra-conservative Christian teachings have combined to make Verna the most prime target for the bullies at her school. Unable to cope with the awful treatment Verna receives, she decides to get in with Layla’s circle of friends, and unfortunately she learns a bit too late that Layla’s choices are far darker than Verna had imagined. When Verna finally decides to disentangle herself from the group, things go from bad to much, much worse.
I was looking forward to reading this book because I thought it would be dark and twisty, exploring the relationships between these characters and their choices in a way that would be compulsively readable. I definitely got what I was looking for, but I have to tell you that Save Yourself was MUCH darker, and way twistier, than I had bargained for.
The thing about this book is that the characters are way f*ed up. WAY. Patrick is such a sad excuse for an adult – he has an awful-paying job that he hates, is forced to live with his brother (who has just as awful a job, which he also hates), and is basically letting the fact that his dad is in jail ruin his life. He is just an unhappy person who is simply existing, walking through life rather than actually living it.
Layla and Verna are also pretty messed-up, and a lot of that is due to their parents, which honestly is really sad. Layla was a “good kid” for a long time, until an extremely publicized incident made her turn completely the other direction. And Verna just made me so depressed – she wanted to follow her parents’ rules and do the right thing, but she was so tortured, so harassed, bullied so horribly, that the only thing she could think to do was to follow her sister’s lead. After all, Layla didn’t get bullied because she was a bad ass – so Verna thought she could do the same.
Reading Save Yourself is like watching a car wreck in slow motion – you know things are going to be absolutely horrific, there’s no possible way it can end well, but you just can’t look away and you HAVE to see how it all unfolds. There’s this huge sense of danger that you can literally feel as you read the book, this feeling that NO WAY can things possibly end up okay, and yet when you get to the final pages it’s still an incredibly shocking moment. One you think you will see coming, but really, it’s not possible to imagine this ending. It’s part genius, part crazy.
I definitely appreciated this novel but it was a little more than I was expecting. Things get really heavy, creepy in an insane way, and I just wasn’t expecting THIS. I would absolutely recommend Save Yourself for those who like thrillers, books with that “creep factor”, and if you can deal with the wild ride Braffet takes you on, books with well-drawn characters and great writing. Because Save Yourself has all of these things and more. I don’t know that I can say I liked the book, exactly, but my appreciation level for it is extremely high. Does that make sense?