Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Check out this book on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
Elise Dembowski doesn’t have friends, and she wants attention. So she tries to kill herself. 7 months later she’s still alive, and still miserable. She stumbles across an underground club where she meets friends, lovers, and DJing. Elise comes into her own in the middle of the night to the sounds of club music while DJing the club. Unfortunately the rest of her life is still going poorly and Elise starts to lose control.
I didn’t really like this book. It is a good book, with a great message, which is why I’m giving it the rating that I am, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe that’s good, you’re not meant to enjoy life lessons, especially the powerful one in This Song Will Save Your Life. Honestly though, this book is hard to read, despite being well written with well formed characters, it’s rough. The writing transitions from blunt and unfeeling to hugely emotional by the end which also takes it from horribly uncomfortable to enjoyable. The message, about accepting and owning yourself is hugely important, no matter where you are in your life. It’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow though.
The story, about a young girl who is bullied and ignored to the point of wanting to kill herself is so shockingly blunt and real it hurts. The content, especially early on is blunt and difficult to read. The description of her self harm is graphic. It was painful for me to read this section, but it was well written and worked well for the book. The later sections of the book about her DJing were well written and touching. Watching Elise get friends was so touching, but more than that, watching her develop into herself and own who she is was the real thing that moves this story along. This is the lesson you’re supposed to receive. Be who you are, and accept who you are. It’s a lesson you need at all points in life, sometimes you need a little reminding. The plot of this is fantastic and has some really excellent, smooth writing.
The characters in this book are well developed. Elise in particular is very real and very well developed. This is really fantastic. She’s a complex person. She’s hurt because people don’t like her, bus she’s also very judgmental and kind of rude. She has desires and wants that don’t revolve around her relationship with Char, instead they’re largely about friendship and mostly about being herself. She’s not a likeable person. That’s important. It’s why I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s why this book is hard to read. Elise is rude, judgemental, and angry. She acts very much like that classic “oo I’m a special snowflake” type of character, which is difficult to deal with. Her parents and siblings are well developed, her friends as well (especially Vicky who was my personal favourite), and even people like Amelia who have hardly any lines are well developed.
As I’ve said the writing is good. There’s a clear transition from the sort of blunt description used during Elise’s most serious moments of depression to the emotional writing of Elise when she finds herself. There are a few issues. I think the use of stereotypes is sort of dangerous. The book tries to clear these up but honestly Elise’s attitudes comes across too strong at the beginning, as she is so horribly judgemental, it’s hard to completely reverse it. I had some trouble other places because the pacing was slow early on, and it was difficult to get into the flow of the book.
Overall I think this book is worth a read. The pace, writing, and characters make it a little difficult to get into at the beginning however the end result is worth it. The message of this book is really very important. I didn’t enjoy the book but I highly recommend it because it is such an important story for people of all ages.
Have you read This Song Will Save Your Life? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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