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. (Goodreads)
Oh this book. This amazing and heartfelt story about redemption and finding your identity was perfection on paper. The fact that the main character Elise is obsessed with music and that the author weaves songs throughout the story…brilliant.
It’s ironic to me that October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I just read this story about the horrific treatment Elise suffered starting in 4th grade. 4th grade! You might never have been bullied or been a bully but EVERYONE has witnessed someone being bullied. Think back. That one “odd” kid who just never really fit in, kept to themselves, thought outside the box, didn’t wear the latest trends or follow the rest of the sheep. I’ll be honest, reading some of the things Elise went through made me so angry, disgusted and hopeless but I appreciated the truth. It reminded me that it still goes on and to empower my children, their friends and my students to not tolerate bullying.
“You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not. What do you think it takes to reinvent yourself as an all-new person, a person who makes sense, who belongs? Do you change your clothes, your hair, your face? Go on, then. Do it. Pierce your ears, trim your bangs, buy a new purse. They will see past that, see you, the girl who is still too scared, still too smart for her own good, still a beat behind, still, always, wrong. Change all you want; you can’t change that.
I know because I’ve tried.
I was born to be unpopular.”
That was the opening from the book. Amazing, right? Sucks you right in and you want to know how the story plays out. I will not give anything away but it does get worse before it gets better. And even when it gets better, the bullying continues. It’s real, not a fairytale. However, when it does turn the corner and Elise finds the warehouse party and meets new people, who don’t know the bullied Elise, she comes into her own and you find yourself cheering her on. I appreciate how Leila Sales doesn’t make the reader wait too long. There is no dragged out, torturous and dramatic story line (thank goodness). By chapter three you see some hope for Elise and with the ongoing bullying she has the power of friendship and music in her back pocket to sustain her. And then cue the music.
THE MUSIC! Well if you follow this blog you know that my personal choice of therapy is reading and music. (You know, “The Daily Dosage”) Anyway, the music is fantastic and I can honestly say that the songs that Ms. Sales weaves throughout the story are some of my favorites. I was also excited to discover new artists and their songs, unfamiliar to me. I was constantly looking them up to see band footage and hear their songs. At the end of the book she includes a few pages of “Recommended Listening” and yep, the nerdy, music-obsessed person that I am, Xeroxed it.
The parents? Yes, they are very involved in Elise’s life. Many stories I’ve read lately in the YA/Teen genre have missing parents. Maybe they are not crucial to the story the author is writing, but I was glad we got to see how Elise honestly viewed her parents’ involvement in her life. Yes, I wanted to scream at the book many times for her parents to help her or for Elise to confide in them but then I read this and it hit home:
“‘You can’t always make me safe. ‘ I said. ‘Just by having a parent home with me every evening, or grounding me, or giving me a chaperone every time I want to go out past nightfall. That’s now how it works.’ There are dangers everywhere, I wanted to explain to her. On the school bus, in the cafeteria, at Start, inside of me. No parent-no one at all- can step in and vanquish every one of them.”
This leads me to one last thing I want to mention about this story. The “relationship” between Elise and Char (short for “This Charming Man” by The Smiths). Again, I will not include spoilers but I have to mention it. This is a story about Elise and what she has to go through to find her identity and stand up for herself. Leila Sales stays true to that formula and I love her for it. I can’t express that enough. Having been raised by a single mom, having sisters and daughters: NO MAN WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. I know that seems petty and anti-guy and I am not. AT ALL. Some of my favorite books are romance novels, romantic comedies, romantic dramas, historical romance and smexy stories. Heck, my favorite book is Pride & Prejudice and Mr. Darcy basically saves the day. But since this is a YA book (labeled Teen at my library), I think the message here is powerful. Elise, in the end, has to fight for herself if she wants to change her path. So, does she?
*Now I MUST find a song to feature following this book. MUST. But which one? She included so many great ones at poignant parts of the story. This is going to kill me to choose. I think that Leila Sales should make a mixed tape/CD/ whatever for This Song Will Save Your Life and include it with the book. That only seems right to me.