September 10, 2013

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Page Count: 288
Source: ARC from Teen Author Carnival
Rating: A shaky start with a brilliant rest-of-everything.
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Elise feels like the she's the kind of person who never, ever fits in. Despite this, she spends her whole summer trying to learn everything she can to become one of the popular kids. When that fails, Elise skips the rest of the first day of school and attempts to kill herself in order to get attention from this girl she wants to be friends with. This, of course, is only the first chapter or so of the book. The rest of it picks up a couple months later with Elise still on the outside. Only this time she deals with her problems by sneaking out at night for long walks. It's on one of these walks that she runs into this underground party and meets Vicky, Pippa, Mel and Char, the DJ. It is here where Elise begins to understand that she's never going to believe that anyone can like/likes her if she doesn't like herself.

Let's break this down:

So I actually didn't really love the beginning of this book (AKA the part when Elise attempts suicide to get attention). It really rubbed me the wrong way. Not because I dislike books about suicide. I just didn't see that opening coming and then once I had that opening the way the rest of the book related to it just didn't work for me.

But other than that first bit, I loved this whole book. I really identified with a lot of what Elise dealt with and I feel like most people could probably do the same because, honestly, Elise's characterization really covers a lot of bases. At the beginning, she's the girl who doesn't fit in. Then in the middle of the book she kind of becomes a mean girl. And then, at the end of the book, she has this major realization and evens out.

Aside from insane reliability, I really like how Elise just does what she wants, even though a lot of the time doing what she wants isn't necessarily the best decision. This especially applies to Elise's romantic relationship choices throughout the book. Some of her choices are kind of iffy, but she doesn't sit around and make lists of pros and cons. She doesn't seek advice and only do something because someone else tells her to. She just does what she wants to and I love that.

So, Elise is great, but I also really love pretty much everyone else in this book. Mel and Vicky are fantastic. They're the perfect support group for Elise, even though she doesn't really recognize this until the very end of the book. I also adore Elise's parents. They're present in their daughter's life without being TOO present and actually play a part in Elise's character development.

Sally and Chava are also two of my favorite characters in this book. They kind of prove to Elise that she's part of the reason she didn't have friends. Elise spent all her time running around, trying to make the popular kids like her because she thought they were the only option. But it took desperation and a favor from these two girls Elise thought were totally annoying to realize that maybe there were friends available for her, she just didn't find them worthy because of some absurd high school social structure. Obviously this realization couldn't happen without Start (the underground party/club a lot of this book takes place in) and Sally and Chava will never be Elise's best friends by any means, but they do make a good point. Which is, essentially: "Stop trying to social climb and be friends with the people who want you."

Yeah. I think the only reason I have to not love Elise is that she's a LITTLE BIT of a self-centered social climber. I forgive Elise, though, because I don't think she was really aware of what she was doing. And because she's a teenager and that's kind of what teenagers do.

Anyway, at the end of it all, this book really struck a lot of chords with me (both of the good and bad variety) but even if I didn't love every part of this book, the fact that I can relate to so much of it really shows how amazing this book is.

The long and short of it?

Plot: Aside from an iffy beginning, this book is full of exciting turns of events and brilliant character portrayals.
World Building: I was a little confused by this underground party thing. But I'm kind of a homebody and, from what I understand, Leila Sales likes to go to dance parties. So I trust her.
Character Development: Elise is the perfect teenager. Which isn't to say she's a perfect person. It just means that she's the perfect depiction of a teenager. At least one I can relate to and recognize some of myself in.
Prose: Clear prose written in first person that really gives the reader a feel for who Elise is.
Would I Recommend This Book?: I think part of my problem with this book is that I'm really picky with my issue books. But this book isn't so much about the issue as it is about feeling like you don't belong and that's something I can get on board with. So, basically, if you love YA contemporary, this is a must read.

I feel like this review was very personal to me. That being said, did you have similar problems or were you happy with the whole thing? Let me know in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I really, really liked this book! It wasn't necessarily a 5 star read, but it still hit pretty close to home. I could totally relate to Elise, and all her feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness and just being totally alone. So there was that! Plus, I found it massively awesome that she fell in love with DJ-ing!


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