Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: Save Me

The boys had two extra days off school for the weekend of Valentine's Day. We made plans to visit Big Splash Adventure water park in Southern Indiana for a few days. Whenever we go to the water park, I try my hardest to bring a book I already own (as opposed to a library book) because of possible water damage. I lucked out when I found a Lisa Scottoline novel in the library's bookstore a few weeks back. I snatched it up (Scottoline is known for her riveting women's thrillers) - good thing, too, because I dropped the book in a puddle of water and completely ruined the cover page of the book.

I must say, all the revision books I have been reading were fresh in my mind as I read this thriller, Save Me. Scottoline certainly knows how to pack powerful story plot points throughout her novel and I was able to clearly identify them and acknowledge what they did for the plot structure of her book. In other words, I found myself reading as a writer, instead of merely reading for enjoyment. The plot structure in this book was foolproof. The reader is pulled along into the story as the main character encounters increasing opposition throughout the tale.

Rose McKenna is very concerned about her daughter, Melly, who is being bullied by another girl in her class, Amanda. Rose decides to volunteer as a lunchroom aide in order to get a clearer vision of what is going on for her daughter. Unfortunately, just as she begins to confront Amanda about making fun of her daughter's facial port-wine birthmark, the unthinkable happens and Rose is thrown into the moral dilemma of deciding which girl to attend to first after the cafeteria explodes and fire rages. Even though Rose assists Amanda toward an exit before breaking down the door to the handicapped restroom to rescue her own daughter, she is caught up in a community uproar based on her decisions in the moment. She stands to lose everything ... her marriage, her children, and her freedom.

Just when you think things have heated up thoroughly, Scottoline pours more gasoline on the fire and the plot thickens. Rose is convinced that she must do the investigating if she is going to find answers to the many questions surrounding the school fire and the deaths associated with it. She puts herself in harm's way several times in her efforts to find the truth. This book will grab ahold of you and not let you go until everything comes clear.

I couldn't help but put myself in Rose's shoes and imagine how devastating the simple act of volunteering could be for a person. The author notes, at the end of the book, that the story germ came from a conversation she had with a friend over what you would do if you had one car seat and had to transport your child's friend home with you - would you put your child in the car seat or the friend? This little moral dilemma led to a rapid-fire, action-packed story about a woman who must decide who to save - her child or the bully? Scottoline's characters and conflicts are realistic and riveting and her plot structure is breathtaking in its precision.

Now, after admiring the writing skill demonstrated, I must vent a few things that I disliked about the book. While the characters are realistic, I didn't get a strong feeling for the marriage relationship demonstrated in the novel. Moreover, the main character eventually morphed into something ridiculous as the author included statements about moms being action-heroes. It grew more and more unbelievable as she took on the role of super-sleuth and investigated everything on her own after dropping her beloved children (aren't they the ones she is supposedly fighting for and desperate about possibly losing) off with friends. Perhaps the emphasis on plot structure became an obstacle to enjoying the tale as a way to think through a delicate moral issue. Indeed, it is probably equally true that plot cannot trump character or the reader comes up dissatisfied with the outcome. Still, even with those caveats, I thought it was a roller-coaster ride of a tale and Scottoline's fans will certainly eat it up.


Kate Unger said...

I've never read anything by Scottoline before. Sounds good. I added it to my list. Great review.

Wendy said...

Kate - I've read three other Scottoline books and if I were going to recommend one, I would say start with either "Look Again" (about finding your son's photo on a missing child bulletin) or "Every Fifteen Minutes" (about a boy with OCD caught up in a murder investigation because of his murderous thoughts about the dead girl). She does a tremendous job of sucking the reader in and then providing twist after twist to keep the plot moving and thickening.