Title: Save Yourself
Author: Kelly Braffet
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Patrick Cusimano’s father came home drunk, with blood on the fender of the car, he knew his life would never be the same. Now, Patrick’s father is in jail for killing a child while driving under the influence, and Patrick and his older brother are living in their house, ekeing out a living at their miserable jobs. The town despises them, thinking they are no better than their father. Patrick’s outcast status attracts Layla Elshere, a teenager who is acting out against her father’s fundamentalist Christian ministry. Patrick is simultaneously attracted and repulsed by Layla, knowing that their friendship can’t lead to anything positive.
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet is an interesting sort of contemporary novel. It’s difficult to describe; there are so many elements that come together to make this novel. The central character is Patrick, who is managing to get by. His life is a sad one; he has no real friends, and it’s clear that he has no future. He’s doomed to live and die in that small town, with everyone hating him. The reader will want him to get out, to find something better, but will also know that there’s little chance of that happening. Patrick is stuck, in every sense of the word.
Layla is another thought-provoking character in Save Yourself, though she’s a bit more difficult to like than Patrick. It’s clear that everything she does is a reaction to her parents. She’s in a lot of pain emotionally, and doesn’t know how to cope. Layla is suffocated by her conservative Christian family; she doesn’t share their beliefs and holds everything they do and think in contempt. It’s interesting, if sad, to see their dynamics, as well as to understand where Layla ends up.
It’s Verna, Layla’s little sister, who will really capture the reader’s heart in Save Yourself. She’s just entering high school, scared and unsure of herself. The amount of teasing and bullying she’s forced to endure is both frightening and heartbreaking. Braffet really makes this issue a centerpiece of her novel; as things get worse and worse for Verna, Layla, and Patrick, the reader knows that the story is building up to something, and it likely isn’t good.
These three different stories make up Save Yourself, and it’s very interesting. The book is difficult to read at times, just because it is so bleak and heartbreaking. These characters have no hope, and little realistic chance of getting out of their small, depressing town. It’s still worth reading, though, as Braffet writes realistic characters and deals with thought-provoking issues that will leave readers wondering long after the last pages are turned.