Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: "Save Yourself" by Kelly Braffet

This year is becoming a really good year for books, because Save Yourself, the third novel for author Kelly Braffet is another book that I cannot wait to talk about. I must say that this book is quite the barn burner, taking a premise that isn’t all that original, yet fills it with real, flesh and blood people with real pain and real anguish, given what they thought was a chance at happiness, but really is an object that eventually drags them down into a series of escalating, nefarious events that are bound to shed a few drops of blood by the end of the book. The two books that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I was reading this novel where Dennis Lehane’s Mystic river and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It has the heart of Lehane’s novel at it’s core, where a community filled with filled with average people with average goals comes to it’s breaking point due to repressed feelings and hidden violence. It also shares that novel’s structure, where the unfolding story is told through roughly three different perspectives. The way it reminds me of Tartt’s debut novel is in the action. Like that novel, the dread and tension escalates from disturbing yet harmless actions to devastating violence, and throughout all of it, the reader knows and feels it coming. Braffet handles these two qualities perfectly, melding an intense yet relatable thriller where the lives and souls of all the people involved are at stake. At the beginning of the novel, Patrick, arguably the heart of the novel, is working the nights shift at a local convenience store in his small Pennsylvania town. About six months before this, his father killed a young boy while he was drunk driving, and the time between when it happened and when Patrick called the police have made the town suspicious about them, and bloodthirsty for their comeuppance. He lives in the family house with his older brother Mike and his girlfriend Caroline, and works the night shift to avoid crowds. One night, he finds a young Goth girl named Layla, who takes an interest in him because of the crime he is connected to. Layla belongs to a religious family, and what becomes rebellion after taking abuse at school when her parents got a teacher fired for demonstrating condom use, has turned into a journey into dangerous territory when she hooks up with a group of pseudo-vampires at her school, led by the manipulative Justinian. Layla’s sister, Vera, is having her own problems at school, being bullied on a daily basis and gradually being drawn into her sister’s group of misfits. It all leads to a nasty confrontation when forbidden desires are revealed and when people are hurt one to many times. There isn’t anything in this book that feels false, from Patrick wanting to love anything so he can feel hope again, even if that is Caroline or the underage Layla, or the Manson like Justinian, whose hold over his group is strong selfish, and disturbingly true when you think about it. The ending, although predictable, is still painful and redemptive due to the strength of each of the characters. If you are searching for a unique thriller with three-dimensional people you believe exist, Braffet has written the book for you.

Rating: 5/5

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