Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Synopsis: 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 was so well done! I went in expecting a fluffy story of a girl who became a DJ and reinvented herself but this is so incredibly more I can’t believe how under-hyped this book is! For starters it must be stated that this book has MAJOR trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide and bullying. The entire story centers around that so please be cognitive of that fact.
Now on to my review and spoilers at the end!
I have been left incredibly impressed with Leila Sales’ writing because she tackled hard problems and she was not afraid to stay with them rather than skimming them. In ‘This Song Will Save Your Life’ Sales gives us protagonist Elise. Elise has grown up with the same little fucks since she was young and they have all decided early on that she is that kid, the one who is too smart to be cool and the one it’s OK to bully. In an act of sheer desperation, Elise tries to reinvent herself and when that backfires she tries to take her own life. Our story begins 6 months after that attempt, the repercussions of her actions and what she does to find herself and happiness.
There’s a few reasons why I thought this book was so well written:
- Elise knows she should stand up for herself but at 16 she lacks the tools to exercise a backbone. She knows she should tell an adult about her difficulties but her own reasoning always stops her and I think it’s very realistic for a sixteen year old to be filled with such conflicting thoughts. However, I do love that Sales lets Elise develop to a girl who finds out who she is and finds her worth WITHOUT a guy finding it for her. Or I should say despite the guy not finding it in her which I thought was excellent.
- There is a boy – he’s the quintessential bad boy but Sales goes the realistic route and shows us that in real life those types of boys are rather selfish and Elise is able to see this and not let it destroy her, on the contrary, it makes her stronger and I loved that.
- Sales actually deals with the desperation of suicide – the need for the attention, the cry for help and she creates parents which are fantastic despite their own issues with each other (they’re divorced). She also creates a family life and sibling love which is always refreshing in YA.
- Girl-power everywhere. I was afraid that we would go to the route of slut-shaming which I have stated will make or break a book for me but Sales did not do that. There are girls who are good and girls who are flawed and Sales lets Elise recognize them for who they are. She lets us see the beauty of the unpopular girls in high school who just want to be cool yet they’re loyal to their friends and kind. We have the chubby girl with an eating disorder that finds herself and becomes one of the best characters in the book and we have the girl who continues to desperately want boys that will never love her back. Instead of judging said girl Elise just feels pity for her view.
- The subject of bullying is addressed, rooted out and dealt with and I really appreciated this as I’ve criticized books like Anna and the French Kiss for glancing at bullying and not dealing with it like one should especially when bullying is such an important subject.
Overall – extremely impressed with Leila Sales and this little book which took me about a day to read. Great for 13 and over.
and SPOILER FOR THE END!!
I was confused on the character of Char for a bit, I wasn’t sure he was going to suddenly change for Elise but when he didn’t and Sales craftily placed that scene of him in the pizza place it was so brilliant that it instantly elevated the book from 3 stars to 4. I had a feeling about Harry in his first scene and that final moment when Elise asked him out I was highfiving her. Overall, NOT a typical love story but a story where love is included but the true love is between a girl and herself and some awesome friends.