Sunday, July 13, 2014

Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet

I think being a writer must be one of the most difficult and personally challenging careers you can choose.  It is truly staggering when you consider the amount of yourself that has to be invested in putting your ideas on paper, and creating characters that you then put out for strangers to either love, hate, or worst of all, not care about. 
Save Yourself is the strangest kind of book for me.  It's technically well written.  The story line draws together to what should be a shattering conclusion.  And yet it was missing that essential spark that takes it from a well written book that I am reading to being a story that I am drawn into.
None of the characters inspired any strong feelings in me.  The evangelical Christian parents, the goth-vampire aspiring cult leader, neither of them stirred up any strong feelings in me. I think because the author showed their good characteristics and only mentioned the bad in past tense, almost as a throwaway fact.
The brothers and Caro were obviously the losers of town.  But the best books make you care about the losers and passionately want them to win, even if it's just one thing in their life.  I felt a low level of despair reading about the three of them in their dead end lives, because you could see it wasn't going to change.  No one was trying to better themselves.  Even the love triangle was a bit puzzling to me, as I couldn't see why Caro, with her desire for stability, would choose the brother who worked night shift at a convenience store over the fully employed brother.  Neither option was a good one, but it wasn't like she was trading up.
The sister's story  was equally depressing.  Even if their parents had sued the school district, I find it hard to believe that all teachers would turn a blind eye to the kind of bullying that included setting a girl's hair on fire.
The older sister, Layla, starts grooming the younger sister, Verna, to join the little band of freaks she runs with, at the instruction of her boyfriend, wanna-be vampire, Justinian.  They are able to suck her in pretty quickly, and that doesn't really make much sense.  To go from stuffing prayer brochures to letting a someone cut you and drink your blood is a pretty radical change, and since it didn't change how she seemed to feel or make the bullying she was experiencing stop, I couldn't understand her motivation, or get invested in this story.
The obvious flaw I saw in the showdown at the convenience store is that Verna had a shotgun, knew that the cult leader planned to murder her parents, and that she just didn't turn around and shoot him, but rather went through this pages long debate in her head on what she should do.  By the time the conclusion came, I didn't care anymore who died, I just wanted to be done with this book.
Early on, I thought to myself that this book was about 100 pages too long.  And I still feel that way.  All those words, and I still left with no feeling.
One thing I will say, is that I wish I hadn't known about the author's relationship to the King family.  She's married to Owen King, and DIL to Stephen King.   I'm not sure if that colored my expectations or not.  If anyone can make you care passionately about a loser, it's Stephen King.  His writing is probably less technically good than this author's but he tells a story.  And that's what I felt like I was missing here.
I would read her again, because there were moments in the book where I almost felt it, it was so close.  But the spark never caught in this book.  I'll have my sister read it and see what she thinks.  I'm interested enough to want to hear someone else's opinion.

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