Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. The featured title this week is Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet:
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Crown (August 6, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0385347340
- Source: Publisher
Patrick and Mike Cusimano’s father is serving time in jail for a DUI during which he hit and killed a small child. It was Patrick who called the police to report the accident…19 hours later. Patrick and Mike live together in their family home along with Caro, Mike’s girlfriend; the accident and what followed continue to haunt them. While they were not directly involved in the incident, residents of their small town still hold them responsible for what transpired. Mike blames Patrick for their situation, insisting that they could have covered for their father. Forever tormented by their father’s actions, the two struggle to get on with their lives.
Layla and Verna Elshere are the daughters of a fundamentalist father. Up until now, they were home schooled, spending hours of their day helping their father promote his church’s message. Insisting that they need to experience the real world, he enrolls them in public high school. Both girls are tormented by bullying due to an incident in which one of the school’s most popular teachers was fired. Layla has rebelled from the conservative life in which she was raised, becoming part of a cult-like group in which Justinian, a young man chillingly similar to Charles Manson. Verna has no one, the tormenting by other students forces her to rely on Layla and her vampiric group of cohorts for protection.
The two families converge when Layla begins a conversation with Patrick at the convenience store at which he works. The two have a connection, both ostracized from their family for their actions. Layla is attracted to Patrick, sensing that he is an individual who strives to do what is right. Unfortunately, Patrick sees her as jail-bait, a teen rebelling from a strict family. The result of this odd relationship culminates into one paramount event that shatters the two families’ already battered and bruised lives.
I originally learned about this novel several months ago when inquiring about the “big books” of Fall. Never could I have imagined this novel’s impact and intensity. Braffet has constructed individuals that really don’t have a lot going for them. That said, they are tremendously genuine and authentic characters, their flaws openly displayed. In doing this the author portrays the loneliness, the isolation that surrounds individuals who just want someone to connect with, someone who can protect them from harm. Unfortunately, in searching for such a result they often perform foolish acts in order to attain a life they think they want.
Braffet tackles the concept of bullying in a brutal, yet wholly honest and genuine way. She doesn’t sugar-coat the abuse the characters face for each and every one of these actions culminate and permanently shape them as individuals. No matter what sort of background, be it a happy home with wonderful parents or a battered and dysfunctional home, bullying has lasting effects. It is only when you have a supportive family that you can deal with the bullying properly and directly; unfortunately neither of these families were able to accomplish this.
I’m intentionally being quite vague in describing what makes this novel horrific and terrifying. Doing so would destroy scenes of story and character building that are so outstanding that I feel it would take away from the reading experience. An incredibly dark and twisted story with seriously tormented and disturbed characters, Save Yourself is a novel that I continue to think about, months after reading it. While this is my first sampling of Braffet’s work, it will most definitely not be my last. Highly, highly recommended, a novel that will certainly top my favorite reads of the year!
It’s not secret that Braffet comes from a family of talented authors. Read this New York Times article about Kelly, her husband Owen King, and, yes, you guessed it…the rest of the King clan. Can I tell you how much I want to be a part of this outstandingly talented family!?
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour!
Tags: bullying, Crown Books, cults, cutting, Frightful Friday, Review, Thriller