*I received a copy of this book for review, but was not compensated financially in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based solely on my experiences while reading this book.*
Title: Save Yourself: A Novel
Author: Kelly Braffet
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet, is an excellently written dark drama. It chronicles the lives of Patrick, Caro, and young Verna. Three people who are in a sense trapped in a purgatory on Earth. Patrick is in a constant stupor of depression and hopelessness. He realizes that his life is a never ending darkness, but he fails to change it. In a way, it seems as if he almost wants to feel perpetual guilt, perhaps punishment for past wrongs. Although the wrongs in which he blames himself, were actually committed by someone else—his father. A man now in jail for a drunk driving accident which claimed the life of a small child. And a crime which has shaken the lives of Patrick and his older brother, Mike. A brother who blames Patrick for their father’s current imprisonment. Although it now seems that in a way, they are also imprisoned, ostracized by society and working dead end jobs, life is a painful reminder of what once was and what now is.
Verna is an innocent girl, just beginning high school. She comes from a conservative and Christian family, seemingly well rounded. In fact, her father is a Worship leader and makes a living selling purity rings. Sounds perfect, but no, things are far from perfect in Verna’s world. From the first day of school and onwards, the sweet and respectful Verna is treated to the harshness of the world. She is bullied by her classmates, who hate her due to who her father and sister are. Her sister, Layla, a girl who was once just as sweet and kind as Verna, has been “corrupted.” Her once beautiful long blonde hair is now much shorter and black as night. She dresses herself in scant clothing with a Gothic edge. She walks with a new found confidence, new edge, which Verna could never even dream of acquiring. However, things change when Layla welcomes Verna into her circle of friends, led by the mysterious and charming Justinian. Something which Verna longs for, due to her current position in school, and her inability to be forthright with her parents about her feelings and struggles. Instead, she bottles up her emotions and allows herself to be guided down a new path, a darker path. A path which she may not be able to find her way out of.
Caro is the girlfriend of Mike, Patrick’s brother. On the outside, she appears well centered, but on the inside, Caro is dealing with many demons. Demons stemming from sexual abuse and years of living with her psychologically imbalanced mother. Certainly she does not share these details with her boyfriend or his brother, but her actions speak loudly. Her new found interest in Patrick, which could have major repercussions down the road and her fear of becoming insane just as her mother, are all issues which wreck her brain from morning to night. She wants a stable and perfect life, but her fears and past life refuse to allow her such peace.
Save Yourself produced many raw emotions; feelings of sympathy, anger and frustration, all emotions which connected me to the characters. I wanted to root for them, uplift them with words of encouragement, but their paths were already set in motion, downward spirals filled with mistakes, regrets and life changing choices. Disregarding the main characters for a moment, Braffet’s development of the Layla character was wonderfully orchestrated. Even though the story was not written from her perspective, her interactions with each character and the prism from which she was seen through their eyes was beautifully scripted. I could hear her cries and desire to be loved, accepted and saved. I understood her actions and therefore, I also wanted her to succeed, to grow, to heal. Save Yourself is a gripping read, which takes you on a rollercoaster of human vulnerabilities. I was hopeful for a satisfying and happy ending, but Save Yourself is no fairytale.