Title: Save Yourself
Author: Kelly Braffet
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother's girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level. On top of all that, he can't quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn't understand and doesn't fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing him to his breaking point.
Meanwhile, Layla's little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school. She's become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla's bad-girl rep proves to be too huge a shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister's circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.
Don't worry, friends, I did not give up on Gone With The Wind. Still working my way through it! But often when I'm reading a super-long book, I like to break it up a little bit with some shorter books in between. Such is the case with Save Yourself. I heard rave reviews about this one for the last year or so, and after seeing it on this list from Bustle.com, I was pushed to give it a try. Plus, Kelly Braffet is Stephen King's daughter-in-law. I know that in terms of literary prowess, this means nothing, but still. She's FAMILY.
The first half of this novel was not quite as I expected. I think the reviews I'd read had me looking forward to a dark, disturbing story from the get-go, but that wasn't how it played out. The first portion of the book takes a lot of time helping you get to know the main characters--primarily, Patrick, Caro, Layla, and Verna. The book is told from multiple perspectives, so you're getting a sense of the characters not just from their own narratives, but also from the insights of the other protagonists.
It took me a while to see just what Braffet was doing there, and honestly I wasn't completely sold for a while. Not necessarily because of the slow pace, but moreso because the writing felt more simplistic than I expected, and some of the characters (namely Layla) seemed a little too...overdone? Cliched? I just wasn't sympathizing with her the way that I wanted to.
HOWEVER. Despite the slower start, I'd liken this novel to some kind of really intricate Boy Scout-type knot. You know, one that takes forever to weave together, but then all of a sudden--PULL--and the knot closes up tight. In the last 50 pages, this book went from "slow moving, but okay, I think something important is building here" to "I SHALL NOT SHUT MY EYES UNTIL I HAVE DEVOURED THE VERY LAST PAGE." Braffet took her time piecing together each person's story, but as their connections grew closer and closer, the sense of foreboding grew right up to its completely crazy conclusion. (And when I say crazy, I do mean crazy. Not for the faint of heart and literally a nail-biter, as cliche as that sounds.) By the end, you look back at the beginning and realize the importance of that slow, detailed plot building.
So, is this book the dark and macabre tale that I had been promised? Yes, but unlike many other thrillers, it's not a sinister tale from the very beginning. Instead, steep yourself in the slow-building suspense of the early pages, and then get ready for the intensity that takes over at the end. It's worth the wait.
Readers, have you read any books lately that had a truly mind-blowing ending?