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Book Save YourselfAuthor Kelly BraffetPublished August 2013 by Crown, 320 pagesFirst Line Patrick worked the day shift at Zoney s GoMart one Wednesday a month sealed into the vaccuum packed chill behind the convenience store s dirty plate glass windows, watching cars zoom by on the highway while he stood still Genre Rating Literary fiction 4 5 lost little girls dying their hair maroon and silver just to fit in somewhereanywhereRecommended if you like Owen King, Gillian Flynn, Rick Moody, Peter Straub, books about people who are broken, Sofia Coppola moviesReview Years ago, I read Kelly Braffet s Last Seen Leaving, and loved it I ve always meant to read her other novel, Josie and Jack, and don t know why I haven t I plan to rectify this soon When early buzz started circulating about this book, I was interested Very interested See, Braffet understands what s at the heart of all of us that we re scared And we re broken And we re trying like hell not to let anyone SEE how scared and broken we are, but we re not always successful And it s at that place, where we re at our most broken, that we can either become something great, or we can completely fall apart it s in our hands to go one way or the other.Patrick and Mike s father killed a young boy in a drunken hit and run they are now looked at with suspicion as the children of the town drunk Mike greets this with a kind of blindness he refuses to see any ugliness Patrick, however, greets it with anger, with an inability to move on and with an all encompassing desire for his brother s girlfriend, Caro Caro, in turn, is on the run from an unhappy childhood, and is torn between the two men, neither of whom can save her, but both of whom seem to need her to save them Layla and Verna are children of the town s most vocal home church leader think the kind of guy who gets the reproduction chapter cut out of the high school biology textbook they are also terribly bullied at school because of this Layla falls in with a group of goth kids, who seem to be her salvation, and brings Verna along for the ride.These people, these lost, terrified, broken people, all circle each other like planets they all bump into each other, randomly, like moths dangerously close to a flame And there is flame And people burn They burn with longing and desire and hatred and insanity You know, you just KNOW, that someone s going to go up in flames you just don t know which character it will be Angry Patrick, who seems to have given up Fishnet clad Layla, who s walking the knife s edge between childhood and adulthood Scared little Verna, who just wants so, so badly to belong, to be like her big sister, to have people stop calling her names and start seeing her for who she really is Caro, with her dead end job and her boyfriend who does very little but drink and watch sports all night long and talk sadly about the old days while looking through boxes of his incarcerated father s belongings I read this book like it was my job It reads like a gorgeous indie film I had to know what happened I had to know if anyone got out of this, if anyone was able to pull themselves up and out of this dusty little town Every time I had to go back to the real world I felt cheated I lived among these people for the past few days I rooted for them and I felt their disappointment and I cried on midnight back porches with them, the moon hanging high in the night sky turning a blind eye to everything going on down below.Kelly Braffet understands the parts of us we hide from everyone else Not only does she understand them, she shines a light on them until we almost understand them until we can almost pin down where, exactly, those parts of us come from And in understanding them, we might be able to overcome them Originally published at Insatiable Booksluts Pure entertainment with no meaty reward You will learn nothing from this book, about humanity, or yourself, or timespace, or plants, even, you definitely won t learn anything about plants The writing is perfectly adequate without ever being beautiful You will continue to turn the pages in a kind of ambivalent horror, wondering what could possibly happen next, and that is the biggest selling point of this book its plot darts unpredictably like a frightened or possibly rabid animal, and you can t help but be cast under the spell of its savageness But, in the end, the animal bites your hand, poops itself, and flops into the dust, and suddenly you re standing there in the woods wondering if someone s been waiting for you to come home, all this time if there had been some better conversation to be had elsewhere I will not lie I totally enjoyed this book. Save Yourself Has The Narrative Flair Of Gillian Flynn And Adam Ross, The Scruffy Appeal Of Donald Ray Pollock, And The Addictiveness Of Breaking BadPatrick Cusimano Is In A Bad Way His Father Is In Jail, He Works The Midnight Shift At A Grubby Convenience Store, And His Brother S Girlfriend, Caro, Has Taken Their Friendship To An Uncomfortable New Level On Top Of All That, He Can T Quite Shake The Attentions Of Layla Elshere, A Goth Teenager Who Befriends Patrick For Reasons He Doesn T Understand And Doesn T Fully Trust The Temptations These Two Women Offer Are Pushing Him To His Breaking PointMeanwhile, Layla S Little Sister, Verna, Is Suffering Through Her First Year Of High School She S Become A Prime Target For Her Cruel Classmates, Not Just Because Of Her Strange Name And Her Fundamentalist Parents Layla S Bad Girl Rep Proves To Be Too Huge A Shadow For Verna, So She Falls In With Her Sister S Circle Of Outcasts And Misfits Whose World Is Far Darker Than She Ever ImaginedKelly Braffet S Characters, Indelibly Portrayed And Richly Varied, Are All On Their Own Twisted Paths To Finding Peace The Result Is A Novel Of Unnerving Power Darkly Compelling, Addictively Written, And Shockingly Honest 4 STARSWho made God s washing machine Who made the pointy things that stuck in God s feet Let s draw comparisons as a jump off point for this one This book was like that movie Love Actually without the Wet Wet Wet Christmas and with every character living out their own personal versions of hell, taking a trajectory without any conceivable escape I think I was expecting something along the lines of R rated Courtney Summers or Hannah Harrington but ended up feeling like I read an exploded, novelization of Soundgarden s Black Hole Sun Which is all sorts of fucked up, intense, discordant and crazy and will hopefully put off those who get offended by cheating between siblings no less , statutory rape, underaged sex, bullying, animal cruelty those poor lobsters , cults and high school violence But you, yes you with an appreciation for all things taboo, miserable and dysfunctional characters, you and Chris Cornell will have a field day with this one Save Yourself is about two families living in the polar opposites of a town that sounds suspiciously like those TV movie towns where law enforcement exists in the periphery, and only comes in when the protagonists have already made a mess of themselves So yes, hell.Living in the shadows of the crime committed by their father years ago, the Cusimanos are Ratchetsburg s pariahs, reducing Mike and Patrick to nothing than the sons of an alcoholic child killer The brothers try to carry on, strive for some semblance of normalcy with Caro, Mike s girlfriend who lives with them in the very house where their family s demise began But the town is long on the forgetting and forgiving department While Mike chooses optimistic oblivion, Patrick carries the burden of being the one to call the police on their father all those years ago He ends up committing the Great Apocalyptic Mistake of sleeping with Caro and because that s not enough fun for one plate, he eventually gets entangled with a seventeen year old goth stalker, Layla Elshere.Verna Elshere is a high school freshman, stepping in to a life bearing the shadows cast by her sister Layla They are daughters of a basement minister, the good kind of girls who wear Ruby Promise rings, pray to God and loves everybody When once Layla was ridiculed to being a Jesus kind of girl, she got worse and widespread abuse from school when she inadvertently kicked off the publicised battle of her father s worship group against sex education This leads Layla to lash out against her parents and the world at large, finding shelter and acceptance instead in the fringe goth group led by a charismatic and mysterious boy Justinian The same boy Verna s growing and drawn to as the harsh reality of high school continue to punish her for Layla s perceived faultsAlone in her bedroom, Verna was Bathsheba She was the Whore of Babylon She was all four of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, she was Salome, she was the Beast, she was the apple She was one of the nameless children who died in Sodom when fire and brimstone rained down the sky I ve read a lot of edgy authors for the first time this year but very few actually impressed me quite as much as Kelly Braffet At the end of the book, she provided the short story Hung Up from which this novel was based from and it was quite interesting to see the bare skeleton from which this was moulded from I thought it was brilliant, how well placed the meat and flesh she added on to make it into a novel, because in my humblest opinion, this was some piece of work One that was disturbing and awkward and depressing delivered with impressive control and depth It did take me a while to piece together half of the story with the other, connect the dots and find the underlying pulse where this was coming from And to be honest, I m still not quite sure I ve made every crevice, figured each nook and cranny of hurt and structured anger this made me feel Because for a stretch the switching perspectives between Patrick, Caro and Verna were independently powerful but the overall picture was hard to discern for me Each had its own charm that made you want to savour each chapter, not quite ready to yield the reins back to the other third of the narrative while also excited to pick up the other loose thread, dread and excitement simultaneously preventing you from looking anywhere else but forward.It was THAT kind of a read.The kind that made you involved for each character s arc The kind that will make you want to slap and hug these people It was atmospheric, pervading and tangibly familiar the smell of loss and defeat wafts through the pages and it smells like a high school bathroom and a convenience store at midnight, while hope and comfort smells like scotch tape I ended up having a headache after putting this down because it s been a while since words have punched me so effectively in the gut, the powerlessness of the characters so potent that it transports you to a place that s familiar harrowingly nightmarish and realAll she had ever wanted was a world she could count o and every time she thought she had it somebody took it away from her, somebody kicked her out or traded her in or walked away without a word She never learned Nothing ever changed I ve read my share of disturbing but this just upped the bar a little higher You know how awful high school can be You may just know a little with this one And you might have some preconceived notions about this book, some expectations when your interest was piqued with the brotherly cheating and all those things I listed above I don t think one would be disappointed but I don t think it would be anything one would expect either.For all its triumphs, I thought this book ended rather abruptly, tying some ends haphazardly and not tying some at all view spoiler Though it could probably be explained as ambiguous at best in which case, I m charting this as one of the most depressing non endings I ve read in a while hide spoiler I haven t read any book recently that I can recall that has as many seriously messed up people as this one does Patrick, Layla, Mike, Caro, and Verna all live in the small town of Ratchetsburg, PA Their lives intersect because of another even worse pscyho Enough about that Save Yourself begins with recounting the circumstances of Patrick s life The son of a murderer His father killed a boy while driving drunk The town won t let Patrick forget that he and his brother Mike, need to pay for not reporting the crime sooner The religious zealots, I mean parents of the dead Czerpak boy, want them to pay with everything physical that they have Not only are his problems stemming from his father going to maybe leave him homeless, he s got quite crush on his brother s girlfriend, Caro While on shift at Zoney s, a 7 Eleven type place, Patrick meets Layla.Layla was once a semi normal teenager, with the overbearing, religious phanatical parents We meet her as the coffin ring wearing, totally gothed out 17 year old who is drawn to Patrick for some reason Maybe she feels sorry for him, or maybe she just wants to piss off Daddy She s abandoned her life as a bible toting nut for practices in sadism, masochism, and any other crazy ism there is Her younger sister Verna seems to be following that path.No longer interested in being called Venereal or bullied at school, the last hope of Layla s parents, Verna, begins to search for truth and understanding in places beyond her Bible She slowly tries to transform into a person that is better equipped at handling the teasing and bad behavior from classmates She looks to her sister s newfound independence and group of friends in an effort to save herself.These people all are searching for something, although they aren t quite sure what it is We readers only know that they are all stuck in a rut and no one quite knows what to do to get themselves out The sister s think they found their answer in a group of people that claim to have the answers to enlightenment Kelly Braffet does a great job at making this novel dark from the beginning to the end There s always some sense of tension I will admit to being quite bored with the middle of the book I didn t know where this was leading or what the purpose of the book was All the characters seem so unstable that the plots plateau could be supplied by any of them I was very shocked by the ending but wondered for the whole time does no one have a cell phone Essentially, I d be interested in reading by Kelly Braffet This is my introduction to her writing and it s all right The plot is intelligent and the characters than interesting There s depth to all the characters introduced with no unnecessary characters coming in just for the sake of making the novel lengthier Save Yourself is a quick read that I m sure fans of dark fiction will enjoy. There must be something in the water that Stephen King s family is drinking.King is currently in a bit of a second renaissance, producing some of the best work of his career Then there s his son, Joe Hill, who with Horns and NOS4A2 has rocketed onto my authors to watch list and earned the same distinction has his famous father of I will read everything he writes Add to the list of talented authors in the King family tree, his daughter in law Kelly Braffet Her latest novel Save Yourself wasn t just one of the best novels I ve read all year It was one of those books that is so good, so absorbing and so utterly readable that it set unrealistic expectations for the next book or two I read to try and equal or top Save Yourself is kind of like watching a season of Breaking Bad on DVD or streaming You keep telling yourself you ll just do one chapter or episode, only to find yourself still going hours later, even though you ve got other pressing things that need to be done like eat, sleep or continue to be gainfully employed.Yes, Save Yourself is just that good And yet, it s not a story that you ll necessarily feel better about yourself or humanity as a whole after you re done reading Packed with anti heroes, the novel follows several threads all through to their inevitable and violent conclusion Patrick Cusimano is facing some demons including a drinking habit, a dead end job and the fact that he s in love with his brother s live in girlfriend It doesn t help that Patrick and the girlfriend have slept together and that neither of them can stop thinking about their what should have been one time indiscretion.Patrick s dead end job at the local convenience store brings him into contact with Layla, a goth wannabe who is rebelling against her ultra Christian parents Layla and her sister, Verna, are used by her father in promotional material for his family ministry Verna is bullied at school while Layla has turned to rebelling through her clothes and lifestyle against her parents That includes hooking up with several older guys, including Patrick.Braffet ably and compellingly weaves together her plot threads and builds each character up as the novel winds its way to its inevitable and devastating conclusion As I said before, this novel is next to impossible to put down, despite the fact that there are few redeeming qualities to any of the characters Braffet has created Simply put, this is one of the best novels I ve read in a long, long time Pick it up, read the first two chapter and then just try to put it down If you re like me, you won t be able to. Find all of my reviews at StarsFamilies were like oceans You never knew what was under the surface, in the parts you hadn t seenThe Cusimano family consists of brothers Patrick and Mike whose greatest claim to fame is having an incarcerated father who was jailed for killing a little boy while driving drunk , and Mike s live in girlfriend, Caro The Elshere family is comprised of sisters Layla and Verna and their God Warrior parents When Layla begins pseudo stalking Patrick, the two families paths will cross in some very twisted ways I m going to blame the blurb for making me drop the rating a bit on this one Once again, this is not comparable to anything by Gillian Flynn Flynn makes you buckle up on Page 1 in order to take you on a rollercoaster ride of mindfuckery that will leave you reeling months after you ve finished her stories This book will not do that If I had to choose an author to compare Braffet to, it would be S.E Hinton Save Yourself is a book that could potentially have been categorized as a YA and would easily be banned from schools if it were, just like Hinton s stories The subject matter was current and relevant and the main characters were people you really wanted to route for, but realized early on they might not be able to be saved This book has no mystery to solve and the characters you hate are characters you are supposed to hate It s just about life No, not even that it s just about existing It s about being poor and from fucked up families and being bullied real bullying that makes you contemplate suicide and probably having a case of some seriously untreated PTSD due to your upbringing and repeating the past and having no future to look forward to It s bleak and it s written with a brutal honesty that hits you like a punch to the gut and makes it hard to regain your breath.And to top it all off, you won t really feel better at the endLife shouldn t be so fucking hard, you shouldn t have to give so fucking much upAt most, you can only hope that the Cusimanos and Elsheres somehow find a way to stay gold This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review Holy Shit.Do me a favor.Drive out away from the city and find yourself an isolated patch of countryside, away from streetlights and cars Wait for night to fall Look up at the night sky Look at allllllll those 500 kajillion stars chilling up there See those I m hereby awarding every single one of those stars, fireflies, great kings of the past, whatever to this book Bravo I think I m broken. It s not about danger, it s about control Keep people scared and stupid and you can make them do anything you wantThis book. Once upon a time, Kelly Braffet blew me away with her book Josie and Jack It had left me tied up in knots and book hungover for days Braffet has a way of screwing with your head in the subtlest ways possible Although some people compare her to Gillian Flynn, the latter author is direct in screwing with your head Braffet, on the other hand, does it subtly Things you think don t matter will play a huge role in the outcome of the story characters you want to tear apart are characters you will cry for in the end.There s Patrick He who called the police on his father when the old man killed a kid in a drink driving hit and run He who hit a deer one night driving home from work, and decided to let his car rust in the drive rather than using it again He who sleeps with a seventeen year old because she pursued him and wouldn t leave him alone He who sleeps with his brother s girlfriend because she walked into his room one night, and didn t leave Patrick is the sort of character you want to hate, because he s a million different types of wrong Yet, he turns out to be the sort of character who is so stuck, so alone, so desperate, that you want to hug and tell him everything will be alrightThere was no poetry in death People died because they were animals and all animals died Sometimes they got cancer and sometimes they were hit by cars and sometimes they just stopped breathing And sometimes they slept with their brothers girlfriends He s being relentlessly pursued by seventeen year old goth girl Layla She won t take no for an answer, no matter how hard Patrick pushes her away Layla, who had once been the perfect minister s daughter, is all kinds of screwed upStaring at him through thickly painted eyelashes, she said, You re Patrick Cusimano Your dad was the one who killed Ryan Czerpak The word cult is never used in Save Yourself, but Layla s life outside of home is exactly that she s part of a screwed up cult, in so deep she can t get out Instead of fighting for herself, she accidentally drags her sister into it too They re under Justin s thumb Verna had once been a good kid, the good daughter everyone relied on ever since Layla went so haywire Soon, she s following her sister s footsteps, and she can t stopLayla is the child of sin, and you re the child of God Layla was born when your parents were still in high school, right And your parents used to be metalheads I ll be they drank, did drugs, all of it Then they got saved, and then they had you So Layla s named after a Clapton song, and you re named after the woman who told them about Jesus Layla wants Patrick because she can see herself in him She wants to save him, and believes he can save herPeople are messed up You give them a chance to vent their sad little rage at their sad little lives, to feel morally superior, or powerful, or whatever, and they take it They don t care who you are or what you ve done They just care that it s socially acceptable to hate you in public Layla reached out and ran her fingers over his temple and through his hair, where it curled behind his ear I think you need me You wouldn t be here if you didn t And her younger sister, Verna, sick of the bullying, sick of being the outcast no matter how hard she tries, is desperate to be like Layla She will do anything, follow her anywhere, as long as she s a part of something including straight into psycho Justin s armsThou shalt not stand out by wearing the wrong clothes, the way Verna did the day she wore a long flowered dress that her mother had made and Calleigh called her the Little Whore on the Prairie Thou shalt not stand out by having a father who d threatened to take the school board to court Thou shalt not stand out by having a strange name Like, for instance, Verna Elshere.Hey, Venereal, I d tell you to suck my dick, but I don t want to catch anything The hold Justin has on Layla and Verna and the other members of their group is astonishing At first, I liked him he seemed like one of those misunderstood guys that everyone mocks in school because he doesn t wear the right clothes, or doesn t have the right haircut or because he has bad skin But as the story unfolded, the stuff I thought had been a joke Oh yeah, they re Goths so it s stereotypical that they talk about practicing vampirisim, right turned out to be only one of the fucked up things Justin did to those girlsAt first he just made little cuts, like on my arm But he didn t want people seeing the scars So he started on other places Her fingers reached down, touched the gashes lightly Caressing them, almost It used to be okay But now it s never enough There s always a new experience I need to have or a new emotion I need to feel I need to be tied up so I understand freedom, I need to fuck his friend who hates me so I understand love, I need to let him hurt me so I understand pleasure And poor Patrick He s the character I really felt sorry for In love with his brother s girlfriend, forever trying to repair the rift between himself and Mike since he d called the police on their alcoholic father, and fending off the advances of a goth teenager who wouldn t leave him aloneand all the while that loathsome part of him was back in his bedroom reliving that blow job, standing on the street feeling her hand on his cock That part of him wished he d pulled the sheets away from her instead of covering her The rest of him would have liked to hit that part of him with a brick until it stopped moving, and then dump the corpse in the nearest and deepest body of water Since the beginning, you feel the story tighten up, building towards something and you know that whatever s about to happen, it s going to be bad These characters, their flaws, their stories, wanted to make me reach into the book and somehow save them Save Yourself is what happens when good things go bad, and those bad things are shoved under the rug, and how sometimes, life will punch you with a brick because why the fuck not By the time the ending came, I was so wound up that it shocked me right out of my seat No, I kept thinking, Oh, for fuck s sake, no.Layla strayed from us She lost faith After all this time, you d think she d know how the world treats people like us, but I guess sometimes you have to learn a lesson over and over before you truly know it Wait, Criss said, and Eric said, What did she do She let one of them contaminate her, Justinian said.There was another pause Then, Fuck her, you mean, Eric said and looked at Layla Whore Layla sat up straighter and glared at Eric, some of her old nerve asserting itself Right You hate when I fuck other guys, unless of course it s you You were a whore when I fucked you, too This story isn t just about Patrick, Layla and Verna It s about Layla and Verna s parents, Mike, Caro Mike s girlfriend It s about the little background stories and how every single thing, every single moment, counts towards something biggerIt came to me in a dream last night We were in the clearing, all of us, drinking from you Like tonight, except at the same time He paused The sorrow in his voice was convincing and, numbly, Verna wondered if, on some level, Justinian was truly sad In the dream, he said I was making love to you as your heart stopped It was beautiful I woke up crying 4.5 stars Hot damn, I love Braffet I want to quote the entire book. Patrick and Mike s dad ran down a young boy Drunk driving They are now on their own and live with their own demons Mike was strong and good looking and he made her feel safe, but that wasn t the kind of thing he thought about Patrick might have understood, but Caro thought Patrick had grown acclimated to misery, and even as he knew the beer cooler was poison he wouldn t have been able to get rid of it.This book was so personal for me My dad spent 26 years in prison I know that feeling of your demons eating you alive I m not throwing this into the review as a pity party He is a great man and I m proud to have him as my dad I just know the feelings these kids are having Caro grew up with a mentally ill mom She sleeps with too many men in order to just find someone that wants needs her She ends up as Mike s girlfriend it was a nice thing for him to say, the sort of thing that always got to her Caro needed to be important It was boring and typical and transparent as hell, even to her, but she couldn t turn it off any than she could quit having arms.Patrick works nights at a 7 11 type store and ends up kinda getting stalked by Layla A goth type girl with so much going on in her head that I couldn t decide if I wanted to smack her or cry for her Her parents are those type parents who fight the school board to keep sex ed out of the school Purity rings The whole nine yards Her little sister Verna has so much to face starting high school A sister that was involved with a favorite teacher that was involved in the sex ed scandal, she is super religious, no friends other than her sister The bullying in the book could be a trigger if you ve ever been bullied I wanted to smash and roar Little sister Verna gets involved in big sister Layla s world.You have to read this book Dark fiction at it s finest I didn t know when I started reading this book that the author was Stephen King s daughter in law..What the heck is up with that family Do they just ooze awesome in the pages they touch I received a copy of this book from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.