Rummanah Aasi
  Sorry for the lack of posts last week, I've been out of town for a much needed mini-vacation. I've really enjoyed reading Leila Sale's This Song Will Save Your Life, a novel that is an insightful celebration of individuality. Please note this review is based on an advanced readers copy of the book provided by the publisher via Netgalley. 

Description (from the Publisher): 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.

Review: There has been a slew of books about bullying written for YA, but Leila Sale's This Song Will Save Your Life stands out for its unflinchingly real and honest portrayal without the contrived makeover mise-en-scène. 
  Being cool has eluded Elise Dembowski for years. She has been socially isolated and relentlessly bullied by her peers for no apparent reason. Her project for sophomore year is to finally fit in. She studies pop culture, noting what is and isn't fashionable in clothing, and all the other so-called important things in a teen's life during summer break. With renewed confidence she goes to school only to realize that all that she studied for was not on the test. Elise fails miserably and another drop falls into the ocean of self doubt, insecurity, and the hurtful truth that no matter how much she tries Elise will still be the same as she's always been. In a rash and heartbreaking moment, she makes a desperate decision--a suicide attempt--that ostracizes her even further. 
    Sales veers her story from doom and gloom by shining a ray of hope in Elise's darkest times, as she strolls alone at night and stumbles across Start, an underground dance party, that changes her life. At Start finally finds solace, her calling as a DJ, and meets a cast of characters who help her begin to see a light at the end of the crushingly dark and seemingly endless tunnel that is high school. Elise begins living a double life, returning each week to Start and learning to DJ. Being a DJ gives Elise confidence, happiness, and assurance that there is indeed nothing wrong with her. What I love most about This Song Will Save Your Life is that the transformation of Elise is not external but internal. Elise is responsible for her own development not a romance fling (which I appreciated for its realistic brief, confusing, exhilarating moments) nor a best friend in the wings. It is this epiphany for Elise and her journey of acceptance, of others and herself, that makes this book stand out for me. 
  Elise is a remarkably self-aware character and a person that I would be friends with in high school. She is unabashedly passionate about music and looks beyond the superfluous crises of high school. I understand why she kept her pain inside though I don't condone it, but I was thrilled when she finally found the courage to open up and speak out especially when the bullying gets even uglier. Like Elise, the supporting characters are equally well-developed, with the strengths and flaws of real people. Sales' narrative is rich with diverse music references and reverberates with resilience. Elise's story pulsates with hope for everyone who is just trying to belong. I really look forward to whatever Sales writes next.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, underage drinking, a scene of attempted suicide, and some sexual situations. Recommended for strong Grades 8 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak,
4 Responses
  1. I really liked this book. I particularly liked that the romance element was a fling. And she knew it was a fling. It was a fun, realistic side element to the book that didn't drive her growth, as you said.

  2. Hope you had a good vacation. Did you go somewhere fun?

  3. Internal transformation is exactly what interests me here, and I'm SO glad it was done well. I don't read issue books at all. In fact, I'm a bit afraid to read them. But this sounds so wonderfully done and realistic in so many ways that I doubt I'll be able to resist. Besides, there's music involved, which is a huge plus.
    Beautiful review!

  4. I thought this was well done as well, and even though I was a bit disappointed I am glad the romance didn't pan out. It was good she found her own self worth. I loved the secondary characters as well.

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