This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
E-ARC: 288 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: 17 September 2013
Age Level: Young Adult
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.
Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales' This Song Will Save Your Life is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
The minute I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it. Music. That one word captured my attention immediately. When my request on Netgalley was approved, I was ecstatic! Little did I know that this book was going to be about so much more than good music. This Song Will Save Your Life is a truly great story about finding yourself and the power of music and friendship.
When we first meet Elise, we find out she has no friends. None. She is determined to make this upcoming school year the best ever. All summer, she studies fashion and pop culture and anything that could be helpful in making friends and stop being picked on. She has been bullied for as long as she can remember and when her plan fails, she has had too much. She walks miles and miles to get home and attempts to take her life. This all happens in the beginning of the book! Here's this vibrant, brilliant girl with so much to offer and bam! It was like that saying, "the straw that broke the camels back." It was simply too much to take anymore, the loneliness and rejection and all the horrid things she'd had to deal with her whole life. It was so hard seeing her go through this all alone.
I can relate to Elise. I really felt for her and I just wanted to hug her and tell her she's interesting and brilliant and worth it. Okay, I can't help it. Here's a bit where I'm going to tell you a little about a younger me. Feel free to skip ahead! Though I wasn't relentlessly picked on like Elise, I was quite "invisible" during high school. Actually, pretty much all through school. I was painfully shy, which made it hard for me to put myself out there. I didn't feel as though I fit in with any of the groups at school. I wasn't smart enough for the academics. I had zero coordination, so anything athletic was out of the question. I didn't have expensive clothes or come from one of the well-known families in town. I wasn't rebellious or a troublemaker or a class clown or dramatic or... anything. I was just a quiet, average kid who liked to read, draw, watch old movies and devour music. (I actually was picked on in elementary school, now that I come to think of it; which is probably how I learned to be fairly anonymous as I got older.) But that didn't stop me from wanting to fit in somewhere. Anywhere. I didn't really want to be popular, per se, but I would have liked to have a group to belong to. I was also one of those people that, though I wanted to fit in, I didn't want to change myself to do it. I just couldn't help being true to myself. I know, I was strange. One example of how I related to Elise has to deal with the whole lunchroom thing. I didn't have a group and everyone was sectioned off in their cliques. I had a few friends, but before I had them, I usually ended up sitting somewhere on the outskirts, eating my lunch in quiet and trying to get out as soon as possible. Sometimes I just spent lunch in the library. Though I wasn't teased or anything, I did feel lonely. I also didn't really know how to go about changing that. I was never lonely enough to think about taking my life, like Elise, but that didn't make it any less difficult. I simply couldn't wait for high school to be over. College. College is where it was all going to change! Thankfully, that proved true. Okay, life example over... moving on... ahem.
So Elise! I liked her and, as I stated above, I could relate to her quite a lot. She was smart and she worked hard. In all honestly, I couldn't see why the other kids were so cruel to her. Then again, people frequently don't know how to deal with anyone who is even remotely "different." I don't know how to pinpoint what made me like Elise so much, but... I just "get" her, you know? A lot of the thoughts running through her head are ones I've had. A lot - A LOT - of her feelings are ones I've experienced. She was so real - and flawed - she positively jumped off the page. I love that Leila Sales gave us a character so very... human.
I think my favorite character, other than Elise, was her friend Vicky. She was so loud and vibrant, you couldn't help but like her. She's an amazing friend, but she also has flaws and acknowledges them. I like how real she is. I can definitely see why quiet, driven Elise was drawn to her. I wasn't entirely fond of Pippa and Char from the get-go. Pippa, Vicky's closest friend, was extremely focused on getting Char. She was also kind of a hot mess, but she was friendly enough. Char, the DJ for Start, is super into his music and I just couldn't really see his appeal. Sure, I love a guy who loves music as much as the next girl, but he was just so distant. He also treated Pippa terribly... and she let him. So I wasn't very fond of those two. Then again, I did like that they were also real, like Vicky and Elise. I keep saying that, that they're "real," but it's true! One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this book was how Elise's parents, though divorced, were very present. They worried, they had rules, they cared. They may not have gotten along with one another very well, but they made every effort to make sure their daughter was well taken care of. I wish Elise had been more open with them, but I understand why she wasn't. It's hard to tell your parents some things when you're a teenager. I also really liked Elise's little half-siblings. Alex, especially, was quite adorable. You could really see how much she loved her big sister and idolized her. Having a close relationship with my own half-sister, I really loved seeing this.
Start sounds so cool! Clubs may not be my scene, exactly, but I can defintely see the draw for Elise. Being a huge music fan myself, I don't know that I could have resisted its charm either. The one thing that really kind of, I don't know, made this story feel less plausible (?), was the fact that this sixteen year old girl was not only allowed in the club, but given the opportunity to DJ... and nobody really thought anything of it. She was admitted into a club that not only knew she was underage, but looked the other way. Granted, Elise didn't drink or anything, but still. I think that's why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. It just didn't seem like that would be something that would be allowed. I don't know, maybe I'm naive. I might change the rating later.**
Now for the music. Oh my word, the music! I love how it was weaved into every bit of this story. It really gave life to this novel in a way that I don't think could have been accomplished otherwise. Maybe I'm just biased because I love music so much, but still. Each track - even the ones I wasn't initally familiar with - fit in perfectly and set the tone for Elise and her story. I'm one of those people who believe that music can change you. The right song at the right moment can do amazing things. I love that Leila Sales celebrated music and those who live for it.
As for the style and flow, I loved it. I loved the writing and it was paced extremely well. It wasn't too fast, not too slow. I didn't see any instances where I was sick of a certain phrase or where I didn't feel as though something wasn't true to a particular character. It all really fit together well.
This Song Will Save Your Life is definitely a beautiful, moving, hopeful story that I think will be a hit with readers and music-lovers alike. I couldn't get enough of Elise's story and was pretty bummed when I finally had to close the book. I know that This Song Will Save Your Life is one I will purchase when it comes out in September. I also have a feeling it is going to be a book I will reread again and again. A definite favorite read of 2013.
A favorite quote: “'The thing about being an artist,' Dad said, folding his newspaper and setting it down on the table, 'is that there are always going to be people who want to stop you from doing your art. But this usually says more about them and their issues than it does about you and your art.'”
Leila has compiled a playlist on her website for your listening enjoyment! Give this a try... it's a stellar playlist and it really helps set the tone of the book and Elise's character. Does it make you want to read it even more? Hee hee.