|(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)|
SAVE YOURSELF is written in the alternating voices of Patrick Cusimano and Verna Elshere. Patrick works a dead-end job at a convenience store, living in his childhood home with his brother Mike and his brother’s girlfriend Caro, while their father sits in jail, convicted of a hit and run. It took 24 hours for Patrick to turn his father in after discovering evidence that his father had drunkenly killed a six year old boy, and since then Patrick has lost his job, his friends, and his hope for any kind of normal life. Mike blames Patrick for destroying their family, and the rest of the town despises him for not turning his father in sooner. To make matters worse, Patrick suspects he might be in love with Caro, and the tension between them is pushing him to his breaking point.
Meanwhile, Verna has just started high school, where the shadow of her family is threatening to crush her. Her strict fundamentalist upbringing and outspoken minister father have made her the target of a cruel group of classmates who taunt her at every turn. And her older sister, Layla, doesn’t help matters by enthusiastically embracing her role as the school freak. Layla’s circle of friends are the school’s most infamous outcasts, but when they take Verna into their fold, what begins as solace soon leads to something sinister.
Patrick, Verna, and the rest of Braffet’s ensemble cast all find themselves at a crossroads, grappling to find a place in a world that has rejected them. With sharp wit, richly drawn characters, and shocking honesty, Braffet infuses SAVE YOURSELF with a dark, haunting pathos that will stay with you long after the last page.
Dark and twisted does not even begin to describe Kelly Braffet's novel, Save Yourself. This book is grim and disturbing - I found myself cringing and shaking my head in disbelief as I read this novel. It was just too disconcerting at times, and a bit too cliched at others. This book centers on two families, the Cusimanos and the Elsheres. Patrick and Mike Cusimano live in the house they grew up in with Mike's girlfriend, Caro. Their mother passed away years ago and their father is in prison for a hit and run car accident that took the life of a little boy. The brothers' lives are rather pathetic and uneventful and pretty much headed toward nowheres-ville. Until Patrick sleeps with his brother's girlfriend, Caro - that act will definitely change the dynamic in the household as the story unfolds. Of course, nothing compares to his interactions with a high school kid named Layla - their relationship pretty much takes the cake and lets us in on the truth about Layla and her black-clad outsider-type friends. You see, Layla and her sister Verna, have extremely religious parents. The kind that print pamphlets and use their daughters to take the local school to task on social issues like teen pregnancy, bullying, etc. They run a church from their basement and expect their daughters to adhere to their strict religious ideals. Layla used to agree with her parents, until the bullying at school became too much to bear and she found herself befriending a boy named Justin. After becoming a part of Justin's group, Layla's religious inclinations fell to the wayside. When Verna starts getting bullied at school for her parent's religious antics, Layla and her group welcome her into their tight-knit circle. Little does Verna know what she is getting herself into when she decides to let Justin into her life - I'll just say that it is one decision she most definitely regrets.
Now, I don't want to give anything away, but I should warn you that some of the scenes you will be reading are pretty graphic and horrific - so, beware! This is a novel that deals with infidelity, guilt, bullying, cutting, abuse, sexual promiscuity, and so many other topics in such an honest and raw manner. You can't help but feel Verna's pain as she gets pummeled in the girl's bathroom, or Layla's desperation as she allows Patrick, Justin, and so many others to use and abuse her. Its just too much to bear at times, but you can't help keep reading - its just too hard to stop. I know that I couldn't believe what I was reading half the time - it just seemed too unreal. Of course, I also didn't want to think about the fact that these types of things do happen in school and that kids are that cruel and mentally disturbed - it just makes me sick thinking about it.
Save Yourself is definitely one book that I won't soon forget. How can I when some of those images are unfortunately etched in my brain (YIKES!). I would definitely recommend this book - just be warned that some scenes are not suitable for all readers.
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