This Song Will Save Your Life – Leila Sales
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.
From the very first lines – “You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.” – I was hooked. There was something so easy about Elise’s voice – because it was told in first person, she brought you right into her head. So at the end of the first chapter, when she decides to kill herself, it comes as a shock because up to that point, you think you understand how her mind works.
…imagination is so often no match for the absurdity, the randomness, the tragedy of reality.
Obviously, she’s unsuccessful, but her suicide attempt kicks off the rest of the story: late-night walks lead her to stumble upon Start, the new underground club that leads her to DJ-ing. I love that Elise’s passion is so unique to YA; I can think of other books with music-obsessed protagonists, but none where our intrepid (or, to use her word, “precocious”) heroine decides to learn how to spin.
When I thought about suicide…I thought about all the songs I had left to discover and all the songs I had left to play.
Elise is one of the few YA characters that I can really relate to. At first, I thought she was speaking to my teenaged self, but eventually, I realized that I can relate to her now more than I did as a teen. Like Elise, I don’t have a lot of friends, and the only times I really leave my house (apart from work) is to go to concerts (not quite the same as DJ-ing an underground party, but some of the smaller venues are sketchy at best). Like Elise, I have a creative outlet (writing), though, unlike Elise, my creative outlet hasn’t won me fame (yet!). I can also see traces of myself in her need to be good at everything (not just good, but great) and the way she commits to “big projects”, which all, ultimately, lead her to finding where her passion really lies.
Time from there passed not in minutes, but in songs.
The relationships in this book seem more true to life than most other YA relationships, especially between Elise and her parents. They’re divorced, but they don’t ignore her or treat her poorly; they love her, and if they’re a little over-protective, it’s only because they’re scared of losing her. I also loved her younger siblings, and there are a few scenes with her sister Alex that tugs at your heartstrings.
Though romance isn’t really the main theme, Elise does have a thing for Char, her DJ-tutor from Start. I won’t spoil anything, though I will say I started off liking Char (who wouldn’t love a music nerd?), and ended up strongly disliking him by the end. The only aspect of the book I would change is the way Elise still ended up with a love interest; it was cute and I saw it coming from the second this character showed up, but I like the idea of having a heroine who comes to terms with who she is and doesn’t need to ask a dude out to further validate herself (I do like that she was the one to ask him).
All in all, I’d absolutely recommend this one to anyone who loves music or music-obsessed heroines.