Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Posted November 19, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 19 Comments

Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila SalesThis Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 17th, 2013
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

If you’ve ever been bullied, if you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in anywhere, then I am almost positive This Song Will Save Your Life will be a book you enjoy. It’s really difficult sometimes to read about issues that were such huge parts of our lives–painful, even–and this book was that for me at times. There is a lot to be inspired by here though, and it’s done in a realistic way so that it’s very believable.

As an adult my teen years are far behind me, and I am certainly thankful for that, but if you’ve had to deal with bullying, then I don’t believe it ever really goes away. The things that we go through as children (yes, teenagers are still kids), really shape who we become as adults. And with that in mind, it’s almost impossible for me to not get personal as I write this review. The entire time I was reading, I was thinking about my own experiences as they related to Elise’s.

Elise is bullied in high school. The other kids are really cruel to her, and she has zero friends, at least until she adopts two girls that are even less popular that she is. The difference between Elisa and them though, is that they are invisible while she stands out. If you have to be unpopular, I would much rather be invisible. Elise is different. She tries to hard. She dresses eccentrically. She listens to music that is not popular with other teenagers. She can’t relate to them, and so they pick on her. She walks at night to deal with the stress of the day, and one night she ends up at an underground nightclub called Start. There she can be someone else. Start is like Elise’s stress reliever. The one place she can go where she is not known as Elise Dembowski, the freak. Elise gets an escape. Sort of off topic though, for a lot of bullied kids, there isn’t a place they can escape to. 

I wish I could give this book five stars. I really wanted to, but there was something that didn’t sit right with me. And I thought about it, and it all comes down to Elise. I do empathize with her, and I sympathize with her too. But…she’s kind of judgmental. And there are times when it is hard to like her. She complains that she doesn’t fit in, but then she criticizes the other kids for the way they act, and dress, and the music they listen to. It’s difficult for me to feel bad (though I still did), when she was kind of a brat at times. And listen, I am not for one second justifying the bullying because that is wrong no matter what. But Elise was kind of stuck up, and I had an issue with that. 

The writing is excellent and the characterizations are excellent. I loved Vicky so much. I loved Elise’s dad because he cared so much about her, and when Elise hurt his feelings, I cried. Ladies, if you have awesome dads, love them and cherish them. Because it’s so terribly hard for fathers to relate to their daughters. That relationship can be awkward, but it’s so adorable when they try hard. And work hard to provide for them. Elise’s father made me think a lot about my own and what that relationship was like growing up. 

This Song Will Save Your Life is an excellent book. I am a huge fan of Leila Sale’s writing. I adored Past Perfect as well, but this is a read that is more difficult because of the serious topics it covers. However, there is a lot of fun to be had here in between the emotional stuff. It is a darker contemporary, but it’s not going to be THAT dark. So if you’re one of those readers that are hesitant to pick up darker books, I think this is one that may bridge the gap. This is a super special book for teens, and I wish there were more like this out there. I wish this book had existed when I was sixteen. I think it would have made a huge impact in my life. I needed it then and I still need it now.


19 responses to “Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

  1. I had the same with Elise. I understood a lot of her feelings, but I didn’t agree with everything she did. Her father was such a sweetheart and it broke my heart when she turned her back to him for the music. I also loved Vicky :D!

  2. This sounds like a book that I would like. I have been a victim of bullying when I was a child and a teenager, so I can relate to that totally. Great review, because I’m thinking of getting it after reading your review.


  3. I’ve been meaning to read this for the past couple of months. I had an e-arc, but it wouldn’t download to my Kindle, and I hate reading on my computer. I had a really rough time in the 6th grade (although not in high school thankfully), so I’m sure I’ll connect with this. I’ve been kind of shying away from issue books lately, but I’m glad to hear this isn’t TOO dark. I’ll have to check it out. Great review!

  4. This book came really close to my heart. I felt like crying at it’s spot on depiction and writing. Vicky is the best!

    Love the review, hun! <33

  5. I really really loved this one, it really touched my heart so I’m glad that you enjoyed this one too. Great review, I agree with all of the points you made. 🙂

  6. Bullying really never does go away. I mean, I’m a lot more comfortable with myself than I used to be, but I don’t think the emotional scars will disappear entirely. And there are certain things that always set off my insecurities and throw me back to that time.

    Ha, the reason you knocked it down to 4 stars is the reason that I gave it five. See, I was JUST like Elise, but I didn’t realize it until some time in college. At some point, I realized that, yeah, the people in high school ignored me and I was incredibly lonely and desperate for connection, like Elise, but that actually I also scared everyone away without realizing it. I was hyper judgmental and sarcastic and totally thought I was right about everything, while also completely hating myself. It might not make sense, but it’s what I lived through and Elise basically had that same thing, only she figured it out in high school.

    • Exactly this. I talk to Dan about it sometimes and he doesn’t get it because it was something he never had to deal with. The scars stay with you forever. And yeah, they shape how you approach certain things in your life.

      I do understand what you mean. For me, that was never the case. I went to two high schools, one where I was bullied and treated cruelly by a couple of people for reasons I still do not understand to this day. I switched schools and I wouldn’t say I was one of the popular kids, but I did run in their circle and never dealt with that again. So I know it wasn’t me. I was different though, and that is not always a good thing in high school. So I’m not sure it was your fault. I know you might think that it was, but don’t blame yourself. Kids are cruel. Though I do understand what you say about hating yourself because I am still insecure to this day. It’s rough some days. I love myself more than I used to but I have kind of accepted I will always be this way at this point. And you are awesome. 🙂

    • Girl, I was EXACTLY like Elise, only without the music snobbery. I’m not saying it was ALL my fault, but I didn’t necessarily realize the vibes I was putting out. I probably made them feel bad about themselves even as they snubbed me. I mean, you’ve met me. My face can be super intimidating, even if I’m actually just zoning out.

    • I hear you. But I still say it’s not your fault. No one should be bullied for being different. And LOL I don’t think you’re all that intimidating, but that’s just me. 😀

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