February 7, 2014

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.
-from This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

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Where was YA like this when I was in high school? Any time I finish a book and that's the first thing on my mind, I know it earned its five star review. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales was the first book I read in 2014 that had me asking myself that and made me envious of today's (legitimate) YA readers. You see, I read this book a week before I turned 30, which has been more of an identity crisis for me than I expected. It's also made me concerned that I won't be able to relate to YA novels as much, which totally sucks! However, this book kept me engaged and excited despite the generation gap between myself and the characters, further proof of how highly I recommend it!

Elise Dembowski is the stereotypical high school outcast and she doesn't know how she got there. The summer before her sophomore year she decides to re-invent herself, spending her entire break studying everything she needs to know about fitting in to high school culture. But when that plan fails and she's still bullied at school, Elise decides to kill herself. But she can't even do that right and finds herself cornered by not only her peers, but now her parents. When Elise discovers Start, an underground dance club that comes with new friends and a cute DJ, she begins to explore a life outside of high school with a clean slate where nobody knows she's uncool.

There are tons of novels about high school identity, but none have hit me as closely as This Song Will Save Your Life. Similar to Elise, I escaped my awkward high school identity through an underground music scene and could relate to her separate identities, wanting to keep them away from each other. I wasn't bullied like Elise, but I think most people can recognize the superficial, self-absorbed culture of high school enough to feel her pain in this book. The priorities of high school are so shallow, especially juxtaposed by Elise always wanting to be the best at whatever hobby she explores, that the post-high school reader can't help but relate to her sincerity.

What really separated this novel for me is all of the seeds Sales planted throughout and how they all came to fruition for a satisfying end. Much of what I loved I can't write about here lest I spoil the book for you, but trust me that everything comes together which is what made me adore the craftsmanship of this book. Another thing that made this novel superior to me than most coming of age high school tales is that Elise was a narrator I could support. It's easy to feel sorry for Elise, but she always maintains a somewhat upbeat (albeit sarcastic) attitude in which she always wants to learn. This was very admirable to me as a reader and it made her experience realistic.

Some parts of this book seemed a little bet far-fetched, like how 16-year old Elise can just walk into an underground night club and within weeks learns how to be a good enough DJ to spin a bit there. I was also a little bit suspicious that her wonderful, caring parents didn't have a clue how isolated Elise was in high school. I thought these things might eat away at me, as simple irritations often do for me; but I found myself trusting Leila Sales more and more as the book progressed and ultimately, with a tad bit of suspended disbelief, all the loose ends tied themselves up and I found that I wholly loved the book anyway.

Bottom Line: A must-read for any YA lover or former high school female! Very strong and well-crafted book about identity, growing up and loving yourself. 5/5 Stars.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, the ending made the book for me. There were things that felt kind of weird for high school, but the big picture fit so well and the ending had me sold. Awesome review!


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