If I was Lisa Scottoline, I would not have named my novel Save Me. My reason why is if the novel was bad, there would be too much chance of some critic savaging the author using her own title. Luckily, the story and the writing were good. Not great, but good.
I really enjoyed that the author was able to have me feeling as if I cared about the main characters by the end of the very first page. Some authors are unable to create this feeling of empathy from their readers with a whole book to work in. I also really enjoyed the first half of this novel.
The main character of Save Me is Rose McKenna, a former model who looks like Snow White. Rose is married to a lawyer and has a school age daughter, Melly and a baby whose name doesn’t matter. Rose is a stay at home Mum, and on page one you learn that she is on her first day as a volunteer in Melly’s school cafeteria. By the end of the first paragraph you realise that Rose’s ulterior motive for volunteering at the school is because Melly is being picked on by other girls in her class. Melly has a birthmark on her face which makes her a target for bullying.
Rose intervenes when Melly runs and locks herself in the handicapped toilet, after the bullies make fun of her birthmark by remonstrating with Amanda, the ringleader of the bullying. All of the other children have gone out to the playground when the other volunteer parent leaves the cafeteria to get a teacher, telling Rose that she is not permitted to discipline the children, or to detain them in the cafeteria.
While this is going on an explosion in the kitchen sets the cafeteria on fire. Rose is torn between helping the bullies to escape the fire and rescuing Melly, who has locked herself in the toilet. Rose manages to get Amanda and another child out of the cafeteria to the corridor before she runs back through the burning cafeteria to rescue Melly. Melly is taken unconscious to hospital and Rose is hailed as a hero for saving her child.
Later in the hospital, Rose learns that three other people died in the explosion. Amanda, the child who was bullying Melly, ran back into the cafeteria after Rose took her out and is now in intensive care, expected to die. Melly is fine.
At this point, the school principal advises Rose that legal action may be taken against her by Amanda’s mother.
If the novel had continued in this direction, I think I would have enjoyed Save Me more. Rose’s husband was angry with her because she put the safety of the other children before rescuing Melly. The other parents ganged up on Rose and treated her horribly because they believed she had put her own child’s safety before that of the others (duh), but they also falsely believed she had not even tried to assist Amanda or the other children. Rose underwent a trial by media and her past was raked over. There were also questions raised about the cause of the explosion and the obligations of the school and the volunteers in an emergency situation.
Rose does some snooping around to find the cause of the explosion, at which point the story goes in a whole other direction. There is no way that a reader could guess where this story was going to end based on the beginning of the novel. I wouldn’t let this put me off reading another book by Lisa Scottoline, but I felt that the questions raised in the first half of Save Me were not answered to my satisfaction.