All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Save Yourself – Kelly Braffet

on January 21, 2014

Save YourselfSave Yourself
Kelly Braffet
Allen & Unwin
2013, 306p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher/The Reading

When Patrick’s alcoholic father comes home and says that he hit and killed a child, Patrick knows that there’s only one choice left to make. He went out and looked at the car, he saw the damage and evidence of the loss of a tiny life on the grille. And he made the decision that put his father away for fifteen years, much to the disgust of his older brother Mike. Patrick and Mike are still living in the family home working minimum wage jobs just trying to get by. For Patrick, it’s all about escaping the connection….escaping the fact that he’s the son of a drunk that killed a little boy. For Mike, it’s about resentment of the fact that Patrick destroyed their family.

Layla Elshere was once the epitome of religious purity. Blonde haired and pretty, wholesome and well behaved, she gave her devout parents no trouble until her biology teacher taught a birth control lesson that had her father up in arms. Layla became part of his campaign against corruption and eventually she came to resent being used as a tool. Now she dyes her hair black, she experiments in all sorts of ways and she’s looking to break her younger sister Verna out of the family mold as well. As Layla pulls Verna deeper and deeper into a dangerous group, Layla is the common thread between Verna and Patrick and her actions will put all of their lives at risk.

When I first received this book, I didn’t know that Kelly Braffet was the daughter-in-law of much-loved and acclaimed author Stephen King. She’s married to King’s son Owen, a published author himself (King’s other son Joe is also a published author). After I read an article about Braffet and realised that it was about a book that was sitting on my shelf, I did wonder for a little while what sort of pressure it would be to be an author writing in that family. Is it intimidating if your father-in-law wants to read your manuscript?

Overall, I’m not really sure how to feel about this book. I don’t think it really worked for me although I thought parts of it were quite good unfortunately there were plenty of parts that I felt weren’t. I was interested in the character of Patrick – he seems an odd one out in his household from the beginning. His father is an alcoholic, his brother Mike seemingly well on the way to the same miserable existence one day. It’s clear that Mike never wanted to turn their father in and thinks they all should’ve kept quiet. He resents Patrick for picking up the phone, for being unable to bury his head in the sand. Mike has a girlfriend named Caro that he moved in not long after his father went to jail and Patrick is very much the third wheel in their relationship, forced to listen in to their sexual activities. You get the feeling that if anyone was going to end up in an unfortunate situation, it would be Patrick.

The character of Layla was I think, the biggest problem I had with the book. Everything about her just seemed such a terribly poorly executed cliche – the daughter of an evangelical religious fanatic who was once the poster child for purity and everything else her father believed in until it all went wrong when her school attempted to teach how to put a condom on in a biology lesson and Layla took that home to her father and he exploded and began a one man campaign to stop the horror. My husband and I are watching The West Wing from beginning to end at the moment and there’s quite a bit in there about how the Republicans want abstinence only taught in schools and often use this as an attempt to get things passed through. It honestly boggles my mind that people still think that this is a valid form of education to a society these days, but anyway. Everything about Layla from her turning from a blonde good-Christian-girl-next-door to a black haired goth was really boring. Also Layla’s borderline stalking of Patrick was annoying and I wish he could’ve been a bit stronger standing up to her. She really did pick quite the victim in Patrick, the sort of guy who was lonely and probably craving female attention, or any attention. But most of the time Layla’s showing up and her rudeness (especially about his father) just came off as bizarre and relatively pointless.

I have two children, one of whom starts school this year and one thing I am terrified of is that he will be bullied. It’s such a huge issue at the moment, so many children are bullied in school and it can cause real psychological problems. There’s some bullying in this book – Verna is attacked because of her sister being a part of the campaign against the teacher that gave the sex-education lesson. However the school basically ignores it and pretends it isn’t happening because she’s from a family who threatened to sue the school and caused so much fuss. What happens to Verna is truly horrible and it goes on day after day with no one really advocating for her. She doesn’t want to tell her father because she knows that he’ll drag it out all over the news as yet another way in which America’s corrupted youth are targeting people, probably because someone once taught them to put a condom on a banana. But I feel as though the bullying was not addressed in the proper way, nor were the root causes. The school basically didn’t want to know and that made me very angry. Every student has a right to be safe at school, even if her parents have made life difficult for the school. So that was disappointing, especially seeing as here schools are pretty pro-active about pegging bullying and trying to do things about it. They might not always have all the answers but at least they’re aware of it and trying to do something.

I think mostly this book just baffled me a little. The fact that the goths turned out the way that they did seemed lazy and I wasn’t sure who it was aimed at and really what the message was supposed to be. That messed up situations spawn more messed up situations and there’s a culture of hopelessness? All in all, I’m not really sure. I think there are glimpses of good in here and that Braffet can string words together but ultimately, the story wasn’t something that really resonated with me.


Book #17 of 2014


2 responses to “Review: Save Yourself – Kelly Braffet

  1. I couldn’t even figure out how to review this book, like you I just didn’t get it and in the end just gave up trying

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