This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/17/2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: bullying, music, high school, suicide, being a loner, self-discovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)
Summary: Elise can’t win. After years and years of trying to fit in at school, her final attempt to make it happen totally fails. A need for attention, a scary decision, and seven months later, Elise has her parents watching her every move and school isn’t any better. In fact, it’s kind of getting worse. When a late night walk leads her to an underground dance club, Elise feels like she might be on the cusp of a whole new her.
Honestly, I have no idea why Elise was ostracized by the kids in her school, year after year. It makes me alternately angry and sympathetic that this girl could not do a thing to get accepted. That could tear anyone down. The pressure to excel in school and THEN the added responsibility to crack the code on fitting in? It’s emotionally exhausting to think about, and only someone like Elise, so smart and focused, would keep trying.
Her final attempt to win people’s attention is surprising. Why? The tone is utterly nonchalant and Elise shows such ownership over her decision. These are her feelings and no one can tell her she is wrong. And also because this event (which we learn more about as the book goes on) leads her to the something that changes the course of her life. In absolutely great and painful ways. That something is START, an underground dance club that Elise stumbles upon during one of her late night walks.
I think my experience with This Song Will Save Your Life is a lot like Elise’s nights at START. The more she went, the more excited and enthralled she became and the more I read, the more I did not want to let this book out of my sight. Vicky and Pippa were her first true friend prospects; Char was hot and knew so much about music as the DJ. The dancing! The electricity! And how Elise felt when she took a turn in the DJ booth? I was there with her. Totally exhilarated and powerful. Ready for anything.
Like Elise, I’m totally a project person. I love to keep busy and learn new things. I don’t think I’ve ever reached the kind of success Elise has in so many things so it’s not surprising when she convinces her dad to get her some DJ equipment and this becomes her thing. She’s always been a music fanatic but this brings her passion to a whole new level. It also means more time with Vicky, more private time with Char, and crazy opportunities she never thought she would have. Is it possible for the girl who sits basically alone at a lunch table to command a dance floor at a club?
While I loved all the musical aspects of This Song, I related so much more to the search for identity and feeling of contentment when it comes to accepting ourselves. Or the fact that people aren’t always who you think they are, or want them to be. See. I suffer from high expectations from the human race, and this has gotten me in trouble many many times. But I still hope for the best. Sales presents all sides here so effectively: the side where people believe they know you and trample all over you, the part where you think you know someone and they totally disappoint you, and best of all, surprising everyone and blasting their preconceived notions.
Elise does a lot of growing up in this book. Even when she moves forward, she still messes up. Learning to like yourself and accept your lot in life is a task we have to commit to every day. There is always someone who isn’t going to like our decisions, or agree with us, or like us for whatever reason. It’s so difficult to look past all of that and just do your thing. But I loved tagging along on Elise’s journey.
Leila Sales has delivered a book I would declare “pretty much perfect.” It’s absolutely complex and there’s a lot happening but she balances the plotlines so well, and also gives us shining supporting characters and amazing family dynamics too. She managed to bring such an upbeat and refreshing tone to a book that contains such hardship. I am in total awe.