It’s hard to grow up in a small town. It can be even harder if your father is the leader of the community Worship Group or if your father killed a young child while driving drunk.
Kelly Braffet’s Save Yourself goes to the heart of small town life and how challenging it is to live in the shadows of other people’s assumptions, expectations and manipulations. The novel focuses on two sets of siblings: Mike and Patrick Cusimano and Layla and Verna Elshere.
Patrick Cusimano works the night shift at the Zoney’s, a quick mart, where he lives a half-life trying to dodge the blame for his father’s transgressions. He lives with his brother, Mike, and his girlfriend, Caro, on whom he has a crush. Then Layla Elshere takes an interest in him, the boy whose father ran down a kid from her father’s church. Layla has gone Goth to leave her Christian soldier self behind and she binds herself to Patrick and a group of misfits whose penchant for darkness envelops her.
Layla’s sister Verna is a freshman in high school. Verna becomes the target of the popular kids for her older sister’s strange ways and for how her father’s righteous streak resulted in major changes at the school. Verna’s daily ordeals at school are wrenchingly real.
Like so many good novels, Save Yourself has the perfect title. There are so many different ways that a book group could interpret how the book explores these two simple words. It is a powerful novel about youth, small town America, high school and family and the confining limits that they each present for anyone trying to find and hopefully save themselves.