Save Yourself – Book Review

SaveYourselfFamilies were like oceans. You never knew what was under the surface, in the parts you hadn’t seen. – from Save Yourself –

Patrick Cusimano and his brother, Mike, are just getting by after their father is sent to prison for a drunken hit and run which took the life of a young boy. They live in their father’s home and try to ignore the pointed accusations of the townspeople who hold them responsible for their father’s actions. Patrick works in a meaningless job and comes home alone to sleepless nights. When Mike’s girlfriend, Caro, turns her romantic interests towards Patrick, he finds himself caught in an uncomfortable place between his brother and Caro.

Layla Elshere has turned away from her strict Christian upbringing and toward a charismatic teen named Justinian and his strange friends. She dyes her hair black, wears dark makeup and Goth clothing, and acts out sexually. When her younger sister, Verna, begins attending Layla’s high school and becomes a target for bullies, Layla pulls Verna into the chilling activities she shares with her rebellious friends.

But when Layla turns her sexual attentions to Patrick, a man much older than her seventeen years, she ignites a chain of events which will have tragic consequences for them all.

Save Yourself is a grim, ripped from the headlines kind of novel which explores the impact of bullying, fundamentalist Christian values, guilt, love and the desire to find acceptance. Kelly Braffet dares to go to disturbing places, digging deep inside the pathos of her characters…most of whom are teens or young adults.

All of the characters are damaged and lost…and seeking something better, even if the path to that often seems destined to fail. Layla and Verna are perhaps the saddest of the characters – two girls who discover cruelty and, as a result, find themselves lured into a lifestyle which is dark and dangerous.

Braffet’s writing is vivid and emotional and captures the desperation of teens who are victim to bullies. If I had to classify the novel, I would say it is a cross between adult and YA fiction and will especially appeal to older teens and twenty-somethings…and parents of teens may find the book too disturbing to even contemplate.

Although I found myself easily immersed in the story, I did find the plot a bit predictable. In fairness to Braffet, the fast paced world of media and violence which invades our lives these days doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Reading Save Yourself was a bit like watching the inevitable collision between two oncoming trucks – I could see the disaster approaching, but I could not look away.

Chilling, sad, brave, and all too real, Save Yourself is an unnerving read. If you like your novels dark and creepy, this one’s for you.


tlclogoFTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog as part of a TLC Book Tour.

Go to the TLC Book page to read more reviews.


Kelly Braffet is the author of Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, where she received her MFA. Kelly lives in upstate New York with her husband, the writer Owen King. Learn more about Braffet and her work by visiting the author’s website. Follow the author on Twitter @KellyBraffet; or on Facebook.


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  1. Predictable doesn’t bother me if it’s done well. This sounds like a page turner.

  2. Unnerving indeed! I really liked the beginning of this one…then it sort of fell apart for me. I have a feeling that her work will get better and better though.

  3. I felt very much the same as you did, however, the ending I did not see coming. I saw SOMETHING BAD coming, but not the specifics or how crazy-insane things were when it all went down. But yes … great writing, great characters, crazy dark plot.

  4. It’s a shame that the media (and the reality they report on) means that stories like this have less impact on readers than they should.

    Thank for being on the tour Wendy.

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