Author: Leila Sales (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.