This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales
Published on 2013-09-17
Genres: Friendship, Music, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Young Adult
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, Leila Sales' THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
This book has been on my wishlist since the moment I first heard about it. I’ll admit it was the cover that first caught my eye but on closer inspection This Song Will Save Your Life has a concept that’s so fresh and unique, it was inevitable that I’d end up reading it.
This book is very much character-led, so that’s where we’ll start: protagonist Elise is an self-prolaimed outcast. She’s never experienced popularity and she doesn’t have many friends – though she desperately wants them. When her latest attempt to reinvent herself fails, she even contemplates suicide. It’s only a chance meeting withnVicky and Pippa, possibly two of the coolest girls she’s ever met, that she begins to wonder if there really is a way out of her isolation after all. Vicky and Pippa are her way into a whole new world – a world of underground nightclubs, DJing, and a handsome, mysterious boy named Char.
Elise is a main character who will resonate with readers the world over. I didn’t totally connect with her, but I can see where the appeal lies; her experiences can definitely be related to and I think we’ve all felt the same lack of identity and self-worth that plagues her throughout the novel. She makes mistakes and she’s real. She’s horrendously insecure and it stops her from seeing the fact that the only person she needs to be is herself.
It’s easy, then, to see why Elise is so in awe of Vicky and Pippa. They’re cool, calm, confident, in total command of who they are and what they want. They’re got flaws, too, though, and as their stories unravel alongside Elise’s, you’ll find your alliances shifting and twisting, shocked by the revelations that ensue. If there’s one thing to be said for This Song Will Save Your Life, it’s that it certainly keeps the surprises coming.
Watching Elise discover her love – and talent – for DJing has to be one of the most rewarding things about This Song Will Save Your Life. You don’t have to be an expert in the field to understand why she enjoys her new hobby so much and more importantly, for someone who starts out with absolutely no self-esteem, the idea that she can pick up a new skill quicker than most really brings her back to lfie. Suddenly, she has something to live for.
And if Elise is the limbs and legs of this coming-of-age contemporary novel, music is its heartbeat. It pulses with lyrics and vibrancy. I highly recommend checking out the playlist on the last age before you even start reading – it makes the perfect soundtrack to a book that’s full of ups and dowsn, struggles and drama, bliss and delirium.
Char is Elise’s love interest from the start, but make no mistake: this is no ordinary romance. Char and Elise’s relationship is complicated and it’s got a kind of ethereal sheen to it; it’s like slipping on a second skin for them, but there’s always that doubt about who they really are underneath. They circle each other, never truly revealing themselves to each other for fear of showing their vulnerabilities. It’s a refreshing and intriguing change from the predictable love stories that so often fill YA.
Plot-wise, I would have liked to have seen a few more obstacles or a more driven focus to the novel, but there’s always Elise’s encounters with her family to keep you reading (I particuarly enjoyed seeing how indie music fan Elise related to her one-hit-wonder musician father) and as it’s a relatively short book, hopefully you, like me, will be too absorbed in the development of the characters to notice the plot issues much.
In short: This Song Will Save Your Life is the kind of contemporary coming-of-age story that modern YA needs more of. It’s refreshing and different, full of teenage adventures and escapism. It oozes cool and it’s written with frank honesty as well as flair. I had a few minor issues with it, but it still gets four stars from me. Leila Sales is deifnitely an author I’ll be reading again in the future.
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