Friday, April 4, 2014

Save Yourself

Patrick and Mike Cusimano live in their father's shabby house with Mike's girlfriend Caro. Their father is in jail for killing a young boy while driving drunk. That night, he arrived home and they waited almost a day before the police were called. Needless to say, the community hates them so much they want the two sons to go to jail as well. Both men work dead end jobs and live day to day without really looking into future. Verna and Layla Elshere are outcast high school students raised by religious fundamentalists running their own church. Layla rebels by dressing goth and hanging out with vampire wannabes. Verna is constantly teased and after a while of trying to rise above it, she turns to Layla and her wannabe vampire cult. These four people are stuck on a collision course of devastating proportions unless they can find peace within their respective situations.

I loved Kelly Braffet's Josie and Jack, so I had to read her newest novel, Save Yourself. Her writing is compelling and makes mostly unlikeable characters interesting to read. Patrick isn't a horrible character. He's just satisfied to sit back and ignore the world. He doesn't think about tomorrow and just focuses on surviving each day as it comes. He falls in love with Caro after a one night stand and it's just about all he can think about until Layla kind of starts stalking him. Even though he knows its wrong, he tries to use Layla to alleviate some of his pain from his father's crime, his unrequited love, and his generally shitty life. Patrick has a good heart and has the strength to do what's right eventually. He's the one who notified the police when his father came home with bloody and baby teeth on his car. I truly loathe his brother Mike. He blames Patrick for their father's crime because they could have just covered it up. He cares nothing about the child who died and acts horribly to everyone while drunk. The most infuriating thing is that he learned nothing from his father's mistake and continually drives drunk. It just blows my mind.

Layla is annoying and kind of creepy. She follows Patrick around even though he pushes her away in an effort to connect with someone and to piss of her parents. She uses the vampire wannabe crowd to feel important and like she belongs somewhere. The group is also an armor against those who relentless teased her in the past. They now fear her. Unfortunately, the group turns toxic when Justinian, the leader, decides he's a dictator. Verna has all of my sympathy. She tries to be the perfect Christian girl and gets horribly teased at school. I just wanted to give her a big hug. I hated reading what the other kids would do to her. She also went with the vampire wannabes for protection and acceptance. That group turned out to be even worse than the straight forward hateful kids. Verna's story affected me the most because she reminds me of me as a kid. I wouldn't really say anything to people bullying me and would ignore it or try to laugh it off, but, as Verna discovered, that only made them think I was a pushover and continued.

Save Yourself has well rendered characters that are tolerable even if most aren't likeable. All of their stories ring true and they really are just trying to find their own way in the world. The ending is crazy! I never saw it coming and it's pretty explosive. The problem with the novel is that it really drags in some places and kind of meanders around. The wonky pace made it difficult to stay interested at times and I had to power through those parts. Overall, I liked Save Yourself and would definitely read other books by Kelly Braffet.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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