This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales Review

Monday, August 5, 2013

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

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.
Elise has never really fit in. It's not so much that she's weird, but that she's different. She's a teenager with quirks and all the awkwardness that comes with it, but it's a time in one's life when being different doesn't earn you any friends. And so, she does everything she can to fit in. She changes her appearance, feigns interest in things she could care less about and works hard to be anything other than who she is. It seems that there's no way out for Elisa, and she's giving up on everything when she meets Char, Vicky and Pippa, people that might just be able to appreciate her for who she is...and show her that it's okay.

The beauty of contemporary fiction lies in an author's ability to capture, bottle and evoke all the cringe-worthy awkwardness, resentment, angst and confusion, all the while making you feel as though it entirely true. Leila Sales has written a book that does that and so much more with This Song Will Save Your Life. Rather than glossing over the sheer brutality of our teenage years, she spins a tale that is so extremely wrought with truth that it might very well take you back in time to the high school experience of your own.

Here's a secret for you guys. In high school, I was pretty invisible. I wasn't popular, or extremely pretty, or even academically inclined. I did year-round swimming for a team out of high school, never had time to make friends, and I was perfectly middle-class, never owning the very best of anything, but really never wanting for anything either. I kind of just existed. Immediately though, this recollection of my high school experience helped me latch onto the verity of Elise's character, empathize with her utter confusion and her extreme desire to fit in. Let's be honest, our high school years are pretty much the only time in our lives that we want nothing more than to blend into the masses and become a part of the whole. It's easier. From the start, I could sense the deep, aching sadness in Elsie's voice, which was refreshing, despite her bleak outlook on life. She saw no way out of the endless ridicule, and while I wanted desperately to hate her for wanting to give up on it all, I can't say that I didn't have simple notions like that at least once in my life. Elise was a very tangible character, and I felt that I could step into her shoes without ever judging her, simply because her voice was so real and honest. Vicky is the best friend that we all wish we could have had in high school. She was unfalteringly honest, true to herself and unfailingly honest, of the secondary characters with whom we are presented, she felt the most real to me. I had a bit of a difficult time with Char in the sense that he almost resented Elise's abilities, which I worried would hinder her past the pages of the book, and yes, that's a reflection of how absorbed I was in this story. Pippa offered us a lightness that helped us breathe easier in the heavier parts of the story, and I was grateful for her refreshing outlook. There's a definitive character progression through the novel, as well, which helps fuel the plot of This Song Will Save Your Life, but I have to admit that this is a character-driven novel, and the plot is almost secondary to that...and it works. By giving us characters that we've all known at some time or another in our lives, wrapped up in rich, startlingly honest prose, this book is one that I truly felt from start to finish. And yes, music plays a large part in this novel. Think of it like a modern-day symphony. As it crescendos, so does the novel. The one simple thing I would have changed about the book is more focus on Elise's parents and that relationship. I think it could really have enhanced her journey to self-discovery.

It's hard to review a book like this because to reveal plot progression reveals too much of the story, but this is one of those books that simply must be read. Despite wishing for a bit more from the parents, This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that many teens will relate to empathize with. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

37 comments:

  1. Awesome review. I've had my eye on this one. Looking forward to picking up a copy now! Thanks :)

    Toni @ My Book Addiction

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    1. It's really, really good. It's emotional, but I think it's the type of book that everyone will take something different from.

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  2. I wasn't interested in read this book, but the more I'm hearing about it, the more I feel how right it is for me. I can totally understand what Elis is going through since I was a part of blending-in crowd too, but I won't say invisible. I'm definitely going to give this book a try. Great review, Melissa :)

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    1. Thanks, Aman! I think it's one of those books that we can all relate to in some way, you know?

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  3. Oh how I need this book so dearly, I've heard nothing but positve reviews. Good to see that you are no exception.

    fantastic review, Mel! <33

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    1. I didn't know what to expect, Melanie, but it was so, so good! I hope you read it and love it!

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  4. This book hasn't even been on my radar and after reading your review I'm not sure why! It sounds awesome

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    1. Allie, I hope you love it! It's so well-written, and I think everyone will get a little something different from it, you know?

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  5. Your high school years sound an awful lot like mine, just replace swimming with a bagpipe band! I kind of just existed in high school. Sure, there were some friends but it wasn't my life. My life was with my fellow pipers, outside of school. So I definitely connected with Elise and her search for her place -- and cheered her when she found DJing! LOVED this book!

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    1. Isn't it amazing how we can all kind of just place ourselves in Elise's shoes in this book?! That's a HUGE strength for the author!

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  6. This is such a beautiful review, Melissa. I think this might actually be my favorite review of yours up to date.
    I read this book a couple of weeks ago and I was completely amazed by Leila Sales' writing. I can't say I connected with Elise in any way because I did always have friends even though I wasn't popular or anything. Here in Mauritius, we have same-sex high schools, so I went to an all-girls school and popularity and bullying that I hear from Americans don't exist. I don't know if it's because we're a really small community but it's like everyone knows everyone and we are all friendly to each other at school.
    So, I did have a hard time identifying with Elise, but I thought the author did a great job at making her emotions really come through. I also liked there wasn't really a romance in this. I adored Vicky too and the DJing!
    I'm so glad you liked this, Melissa! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Nick! Leila is a truly remarkable author, and I was kind of blown away by how subtly powerful and poignant it is. Definitely something everyone needs to experience.

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  7. I was pretty invisible in high school too Melissa! I didn't feel isolated or left out, but I sorted of floated in between the various cliques without really belonging to any of them, and like you with swimming, I was fully dedicated to competing in equestrian events which of course no one else in my high school participated in. While I never felt the way Elsie does, I can understand where she's coming from at least. You know I adore character-driven novels Melissa, so I think this is definitely a book for me!

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    1. I think you'll love this one a lot, Jenny! It's so well done, and if you were as invisible, too, I think you'll have this speak to you a bit, as well!

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  8. I'm reading this book right now, and it's so easy to relate with Elise. You're right - her voice is so realistic and honest. I managed to create a small group of friends back in high school (despite my shyness), but I had plenty of days before then where I floated around and never quite fit in. I'm only a couple chapters in, but I can already tell that Sales did such an excellent job writing Elise's character!

    I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this novel so much! It looks like I'll have an incredible story to finish reading this weekend :)

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    1. I hope you end up really loving it, Lea! I had some good friends in high school, but I didn't really exist there. It was just a really blah time of my life, you know?

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  9. I've recently gotten back onto reading contemporary (after a long spell of reading dytopian, fantasy, and sci-if YA books), but what really caught my attention with this book was the DJ aspect of it. I've never read anything about DJs, and I wouldn't know the first thing about what it means to be a DJ besides picking songs, so this one is up there on my TBR list just for that reason alone. Great review, it's just made me that much more excited! :)

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    1. Thank you, doll! I think you'll really, really like it if you're looking for a strong contemporary novel!

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  10. I looooved this book! I still don't know how to write down my emotions concerning it - I'm so speechless when it comes to this book. I love your review, though, and I really think Sales managed to talk to so many readers with this one. It affected me on a personal level as well, so I understand your tale perfectly. Lovely review, Melissa.

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    1. I had a hard time, as well, Keertana. I don't think I did it justice at all, but I certainly tried. It's hard to put its power into words, you know?

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  11. So many books lately leave one wishing for more parental involvement. Glad to hear that it didn't hold you back from loving this one.

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    1. I think it could have done with a bit more mostly because the lack thereof in the start could have evolved into something way more powerful, you know?

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  12. Takes me back to my high school days?!! *shudders* Those were such a bundle of drama. This does sound really good and I love character-driven novels. You're not the first person I've seen praise this book so I'll have to check it out. Great review, Melissa. :)

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    1. High school wasn't the highlight of my life either, Rachel. I wasn't bullied or unpopular...just didn't exist lol. Blergh. It's true to life, for sure!

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  13. I really liked reading your thoughts on the high school years and what they were like for most of us. I definitely agree with all you've said, and it's wonderful to learn that this book seems to paint a pretty authentic portrait of the high school time. I had a chance to receive an ARC of this book and ultimately decided on another book. Now I'm regretting that decision. Oh well. I'll just have to read it when it releases!

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    1. I hope you do read it, Amanda! It's so, so well done.

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  14. Oh my geez! I need to read this book. You have such a way with words in your reviews and it just makes the book sound that much more special. :D

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    1. Aww thanks, Ashley! It's a really good book. Definitely read it!

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  15. Excellent review. I was sort of the same as you in high school - not hated, but not loved either. Being a music junkie, I love any book where music is a major theme.

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    1. It's really well done, and it will definitely bring back all those memories!

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  16. I've heard so much about this book. I wonder how I'll relate to this book. I was socially invisible in high school. For the most part, I was neither celebrated nor reviled by my peers. But I was a teacher's pet and recognized quite a bit for academic success (although I wasn't the smartest in my grade by a long shot - just very good at playing the school game).

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    1. I think you'll really like it, Alison. It has this way of speaking to you, regardless of which clique, or lack thereof, you were a part of.

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  17. I haven't really heard much about this one, Melissa, but the characters in it sound very relatable. I was never invisible in high school but I wasn't super popular either so it'll be interesting to see which character I can sympathize with the most.

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  18. I am so looking forward to reading this one! Even more so now since you enjoyed it so much! I know you're particular about your characters and I can tell these passed the test and then some with you. I love character driven novels! Awesome review Melissa! So glad to know I have this one to look forward to!

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  19. Everyone has been raving about this one and it has me very excited to read it!! SO happy that this one worked for you and that it spoke to you personally. That is a mark of a good book indeed. I really like character focused books and I'm very interested in the way that the tale is written seems to evoke the music that's so important to it. I met this author at BEA and she was the sweetest ever, and I cannot wait to adore her book! Great review.

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  20. I'm so happy this turned out to be really good! It was the book I used for a WOW around two weeks ago. I admit I was first drawn to the cover, and I'm happy to know that it lived up to its expectations. :)

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  21. Everything about this cover makes me go ooooooh. So I'm glad to hear it delivers as well.

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