Jul 19, 2013

Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Release Date: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: NetGalley
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 Dembowski wasn't quite the normal, awkward teenage girl—she was worse. She had no idea why her sincere attempts to make friends only ended up backfiring, when all she really wanted was to stop being alone and misunderstood.

Early on, this book already posed its first, and perhaps most important, question:
How do you suddenly make friends with people? It's ridiculous. They have years and years of shared memories and experiences. You can't drop into that midway through and expect to know what's going on. They wouldn't have been able to explain it all to me if they had tried. And they weren't trying.
It was only in this aspect that I had trouble fully understanding Elise; I've had friends for as long as I can remember so I've never felt totally alone, and I also don't recall having problems making those friends.

Bullying is one of the issues tackled in here. It's the reason why Elise felt the need to change herself so she'd finally find a niche and stop being a target.
I left for my next class. Opening the door, I nearly collided with a guy who was running to beat the bell. I'd seen him before, usually recruiting people for the lacrosse team. The only other things I knew about him were that he had beautiful green eyes and seemed to wear Adidas sandals all the time, even in the winter.

"Watch it, lesbo," he snarled, lunging out of my way and down the hall.
Obviously, Elise's lack of friends wasn't from her lack of trying; she was just unfortunate to have teenagers who act worse than five-year-olds as schoolmates. But she wasn't friend-less all throughout the book. She soon had two girls at school who embraced her into their circle, albeit not that well because, unlike Elise's want of friendship, they wanted popularity. Remember, though, that people can often surprise you.

During one of her nocturnal walks around town, Elise stumbled upon Start, an underground club that gave her a semblance of freedom and identity. But as much as Start empowered her, that boost faltered when faced with the reality of her school life.

So it felt even more magical when Elise discovered DJ-ing, like when Cinderella's fairy godmother told her she could go to the ball. It was heartwarming to see Elise finally have something that she could call hers. Something—and someone. Along with DJ-ing came Char who, swoon-worthy as he was, had me raising my red flags. He was sweet, funny, charming and all, but he didn't want anything complicated like relationships or a rival DJ.

That's right. Elise was such a prodigy that Start's resident DJ felt threatened. But somehow, I didn't really sense that she was exceptionally good at it; that's probably because the book was written in first person POV, and Elise wouldn't have believed it if not for the continuous affirmation of the people around her. That proved just how little she thought of herself.

Three things made this book as awesome as it is. First, it wasn't too dark and heavy, even with bullying and suicide. It actually provided a lot of laughs.
"You totally pulled an Irish goodbye," Vicky went on.

"What's an Irish goodbye?" I asked.

"It's when you just take off suddenly and don't tell anyone you're leaving," Pippa spoke up. "And it's a racist thing to say."

Vicky rolled her eyes. "One, no it's not. Two, you're not even Irish, Pippa. You're English."

Pippa shrugged. "They're still part of the empire."

"The empire?" Vicky screeched. "Now that is racist!"
Second was the music. Song titles and lyrics were in almost every page, and they were used so well that they added to the atmosphere of the whole story. And third was the writing. It wasn't fancy or anything, but Leila Sales has a way with words; I felt each tug of emotion, each of Elise's highs and lows. And when she was rocking out at the Start? Wow. I've never been in a club, but having read this book, I feel like I've been a regular Friday night guest for years.

With lots of lessons about friendship, love, and life, I can definitely recommend This Song Will Save Your Life. Once you get past that slow start, you will truly appreciate Elise's true self unraveling right before your eyes, especially when she realized that she needed only herself to reach that happy ending (I swear, this isn't a spoiler).

Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.



  1. This sounds like an amazing read. It is on my TBR pile and I can't wait to read it. I once moved during High School to a brand new town so I know exactly how the main character feels. Luckily people there were a little easier to become friends with. Great review!

    Kay @ It's a Book Life

  2. I'm definitely going to have to read this one now. I love how it has heavy themes but manages to lighten them with some funny moments. And I haven't read a book where the lead comes in and has trouble making friends. I think that's actually really interesting, and a lot more people probably feel the way the MC does here than we even think. Love the review :)

  3. I hear nothing but great things about this book. I love the sound of the music theme, and although I wouldn't have normally have been drawn to this based on the description alone, I'm looking forward to giving it a try. Lovely review! :)

  4. Your review is just so convincing! And I love music-themed YA. I really wish I can read this soon!


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