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, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
“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, this isn’t you. This isn’t you at all.”
Deeply emotional and unexpectedly dark, Leila Sales’ latest is one told from the perspective of a girl I very much related to. What surprised me most, though, was that even though I don’t usually like reading books with music as its main focus, This Song Will Save Your Life totally changed that mindset. This book impacted me so much; not only did I enjoy the book, but life feels a little more incomplete — in a good way, if that makes sense — because of it.
Summary: Elise Dembowski has never been popular, not even when she was young, and for no apparent reason. High school is the same — she sits in the cafeteria with two other outcasts, and minds her own business. On one of her daily midnight strolls, she comes across two other girls, Pippa and Vicky, and they both do something totally unexpected: they accept her into their group. Elise is introduced to Start, a nightclub, a haven. A place where she can drown her sadness. With this new discovery comes a sudden love for DJing, and suddenly, her loneliness doesn’t matter at all, because for the first time, Elise feels accepted.
Looking at that bright and bold cover, I wouldn’t have expected This Song Will Save Your Life to be a story with such a powerful message and such dark tones. It deals not only with a different form of bullying, but with loneliness you never thought possible, and suicide. As painful and harsh as some of the things Elise went through in the novel, Leila Sales didn’t hesitate to throw it at me, thorns and thistles and all. And I felt that this made Elise a much more realistic character, because even though she had to go through all this, she didn’t feel like some kind of “hero” for surviving it all. She was also a particularly relatable character to me, because while I’ve never had the desire to be popular in high school, loneliness is a pretty big part of my life, as well as the fear of always being rejected, or made fun of. I held her very close to my heart.
As for the other characters, I was afraid that Pippa and Vicky would turn out to be the stereotypical kind of friends I’ve seen so often in fiction, where they’re there for only one purpose: to do something good/bad for the protagonist, and that’s it. But these two provided so much to the story, and to Elise’s character development as well. My only wish was that Pippa could have been more three-dimensional, because I felt like she was always standing in the shadow of Vicky and Elise.
Another thing that surprised me was how un-romantic this book was. If you look closely at the cover, you’d notice that the word “LOVE” is highlighted in bright pink. I never found the romance to be overpowering, nor did it play a very huge part in the book at all, and I liked that, because it showed that happily-ever-afters don’t always need to be romantic. To be honest (this sentence is slightly spoilery; highlight to read), I’m not quite sure what Char’s role in the story was, as he didn’t seem to contribute much to it.
Now, for the core of the book — the music. To be entirely honest, I did not recognize any of the bands or songs that were mentioned! Maybe that was why I didn’t find the book to be too pop-culture-riden, or too overpowering; I liked that the author kept things balanced. Since DJing was also obviously a major part of the story, I felt that it was too scarcely talked about, and that Sales never really went into much detail to describe it.
Overall, though, I really did enjoy and love This Song Will Save Your Life. It’s definitely one of my favorite contemporaries, and what issues the book had were small and easy to overlook. Leila Sales’ impressed me greatly with her fourth book, and I can say that this won’t be the last book I’ll read by her!
Who is this book for?
If you’re a lover of contemporary, or are looking for a fairly short but thought-provoking and beautiful read, then This Song Will Save Your Life is for you!