Published by Macmillan on September 17th 2013
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, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
This Song Will Save Your Life is one of those books that reminds me just why I love Young Adult so much. Fresh, realistic, thought-provoking, this story reminded me of that loneliness, that feeling of inadequacy that haunts you as a teenager (and let’s face it – never goes away). It’s not often I call books beautiful but for me, Leila Sales has written one beautiful book. When I get the FEELS at page 21 I know I’m on to a winner.
TSWSYL introduces us to Elise. Elise broke my heart, I know Elise, I’ve been Elise, I’ve made fun of Elise, I’ve stuck up for Elise. Elise is that girl, that beautiful soul you can’t help but root for, can’t help but wish that everyone else can see just what a magical human being she is. She’s special, like everyone else – but because of the rules, the perceptions, the BS, we don’t always get the recognition. Someone else decides that we are cool or aren’t cool. We’re weird because we like The Clash or because we don’t like The Clash, we choose converse over heels, we like Gossip Girl instead of Hannibal and vice versa.
Elise says in the book “I didn’t know. I feel sometimes like…there are all these rules. Just to be a person. You know? You’re supposed to carry a shoulder bag, not a backpack. You’re supposed to wear headbands, or you’re not supposed to wear headbands. It’s okay to describe yourself as likeable, but it’s not okay to describe yourself as eloquent. You can sit in the front of the school bus, but you can’t sit in the middle. You’re not supposed to be with a boy, even when he wants you to. I didn’t know that. There are so many rules, and they don’t make any sense, and I just can’t learn them all” How very true…
Elise doesn’t fit in. She tries – desperately – but never seems to quite grasp the social nuances of her school and peers. You can feel her pain in every page. The isolation. It’s just heartbreaking. Bullying is not unique to the young but reading about Elise’s struggles every day, the effort it takes to ignore it and the effort her bullies go to in order to destroy her days reminded me of that position, that feeling in the pit of the stomach as it happened in my school, to me, to someone I know. That overwhelming feeling of helplessness was beyond upsetting to read.
When Elise literally stumbles across Start “The Greatest Underground Party” and meets Vicky, Pippa and the enigmatic Char, her life changes. For the better? Maybe…
There is so much about this book I loved but the music was so very special. It pulsed through the pages, providing us with the soundtrack to Elise’s heartbreak, her recovery, her sadness and her triumph. Every song chosen had it’s place, it’s part to play, each scene so viscerally real, it gave me chills.
Elise is the star but every girl needs her back up singers and the characters of Vicky, Mel, Char and Elise’s dad truly made the book one of my favourites of the year. The charisma, the honesty, the emotion that oozed off the page in Elise’s interactions with them really resonated with me. I connected with this book immediately and it held me until the very last oh so beautiful lines.
“You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy but it’s not. True,things don’t stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions – but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because through out it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn’t that – just – you – enough?”
This Song will Save your Life was a breath of fresh air, a stand-out amongst mediocrity, it may not save your life, but it’ll remind you that life is worth saving.