Being a teenager in this day and age is tough. Modern teens face pressure from parents to think or behave a certain way. They’re under pressure from teachers to achieve particular grades or complete particular goals. They also face pressure from their peers to conform to certain ideals and are often teased for being different. Understanding and being proud of his or her unique talents can be hard for a teenager, and that’s exactly the issue that author Leila Sales takes on in her latest novel, This Song Will Save Your Life.
Elise Dembowski loves projects and often dedicates her summers to learning a particular skill. The summer before she starts her sophomore year of high school, she devotes herself to learning how to be cool. After years of being teased for acting and thinking differently than the other kids at her school, she is determined to make friends and be “normal.” On her first day back at school, her plan backfires, and Elise gives up. When she happens across an underground dance club called Start, she finally finds a place where she fits in and begins to learn that what makes her different might not be such a bad thing.
This Song Will Save Your Life is an amazing and poignant novel about feeling like you don’t fit. It deals with many issues teens are faced with today, including bullying, divorce, and depressive or suicidal issues. Elise has always been an outcast at school, and the other kids remind her of it daily. Through her experiences, you really get to see the horrors of being bullied and how it can drive someone to take drastic action.
On the other side of things, this book is extremely uplifting. Everyone can relate to the feeling of being alone or not having anyone to count on or share your secrets with, and Elise is the perfect example of how terrible that feeling is. So, even though her story is full of ups and downs, when things are going right for her, you can’t help but smile and feel happy. Because even though she’s just a fictional character, she’s someone you can relate to and really feel for.
Many literature critics rant about YA lit because many times, the characters’ parents aren’t present. That’s not the case in This Song Will Save Your Life. Elise’s parents are a constant throughout the story. Instead of being shadows in the background like many YA parents, Elise’s mom and dad are there to support her when she’s struggling, show her that they care about her and punish her when she’s done something wrong.
Some of the most entertaining scenes in the book take place at Start, an underground night club. It’s clear that Sales knew what she was doing when she wrote these parts, because the club scenes are so fun and realistic that you’ll want to go for a midnight walk just to try and stumble across an underground dance party of your own. The different characters that frequent Start are quirky and endearing (like Mel, the giant security guard who seems intimidating at first glance but is quickly revealed to be a big softie), and I found myself constantly looking forward to the next time Elise would get to visit Start as I read.
Even though this book was overall amazing, one of my favorite things is how musical it is. Music is really important to Elise, and at one point in the story, she learns that in order to be a great DJ, she needs to be able to match the beats of different songs so the audience never wants to leave the dance floor. That’s what this book felt like. It was so perfectly paced and rhythmic that I didn’t want to stop reading.
This Song Will Save Your Life is honestly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. It’s refreshingly honest and deals with tough subjects in a way that readers can easily understand and relate to even if they haven’t personally experienced them, much like The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson. It is a must-read for lovers of YA lit.
- An Interview with ‘This Song Will Save Your Life’ Author Leila Sales
- Book Review: A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
- Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Hi! I’m Abbie. I’m a Wisconsin girl who just completed a degree in journalism, which I hope will help me achieve my goal of reading books and writing about them for a living. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching Doctor Who and hanging out with my boyfriend and his two cats.
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