Passion Comes From the Heart: This Song Will Save Your Life, Leila Sales


This Song Will Save Your Life

Leila Sales

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!

4 stars

288 pages, e-galley from NetGalley (thank you!)
Published September 17, 2013 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Purchase: The Book DepositoryAmazon


25 thoughts on “Passion Comes From the Heart: This Song Will Save Your Life, Leila Sales

  1. YES! I loved this one and it does deal with some very dark and serious topics but I found the tone of the book to be uplifting overall. Or at least that’s how I felt at the end. I’m so happy you enjoyed it too! I think the point of Char’s role is to give the story more honesty. In your teenage years have you just had a romance that didn’t go nowhere? I know I did – I just found it showed that sometimes people come and go in life and even if it’s not true love, it leads you to where you need to be. He did introduce her to DJ-ing and showed her where she belonged I think he was pretty important in that sense. Anyways, yay for a fellow fan! 🙂

    • Agreed! Ah, that could be it. Actually, that does make a lot of sense, though I would’ve appreciated a bit more character development on his part. Then again, life isn’t always a storybook, huh? I’m glad Char was where he was, and that Elise met him at that point of time in her life. Even though things between them didn’t turn out as expected, her life changed for the better anyway. Thanks for sharing that!

  2. This is her fourth book? I’m sure I’ve heard that before somewhere, but I always keep thinking Leila Sales is a debut author! The hype surrounding this title is a little bit scary. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it (I don’t think I’ve even seen a single review below 4 stars yet!), and I’m hoping that I won’t be let down by high expectations. My copy has already been ordered and I can’t wait for it to arrive soon. Fantastic review, Megan!

  3. Wow, this looks like a beautiful novel! I think that Elise would be a character that I would hold very dear. I once spent a whole year in school being alone since I just couldn’t find ways to connect to other people. Elise’s situation and the things she went through sound like a lot more than me just sitting alone at lunch, but I can still relate to being an outcast. (I’m doing much better now, though. It’s a little funny that a goal to say hi to someone everyday had helped so much.)

    It’s great that Pippy and Vicky weren’t the stereotypical best friend characters. I’ve read a number of books where all the best friend does is be all happy and boy-crazy and only have one purpose in the story. That stereotype has always irritated me since that it is such of a false representation on what friends are. I *do* have a boy-crazy friend but she is so much more than the chirpy best friend stereotype.

    And this is a unromantic YA book? Don’t see very many of those 😛 (Not that I am dissing romance. I love romance!) Amazing review, Meg!

    • It is! And I totally feel for you, too. Even among a group of close friends, I’d much rather distance myself than actively participate in their conversations, because I’m so shy like you wouldn’t believe. I’m just too embarrassed to say anything. But I’m doing better, and I’m glad you are, too!

      I’ve read a number of books where all the best friend does is be all happy and boy-crazy and only have one purpose in the story.” — THIS is what I’m talking about. It’s like those characters are practically useless and I have no idea why they were included in the book at all. Hey! I have a boy-crazy friend too (and she also happens to be my best friend), and we giggle over celebs a lot, but she’s way more deeper than what anyone would believe.

      I love romance too, but I found that this book worked very well without it. 🙂 Thanks, Lesley!

  4. A lot of people have been saying that this book is amazing! And, reading your review, it certainly sounds like it’s quite a realistic and thought-provoking read. I like how the romance isn’t a huge part of the book- although I suppose you can guess that from the blurb 🙂
    And that cover is just amazing. Me want!

  5. I was surprised to see reviews on the emotional gutpunch that this book was. I would have never expected the dark undertones in it, and while I cannot relate to the main character, it is interesting to see how you did in certain aspects. So nice to see that you kept Elisa close to your heart. Aww. And OMG. I thought Sales was a debut author!

    • Yet more proof that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, because I know I totally did with this one, heh. The characterization for the MC in this one was close to perfect, for sure. A lot of people did! Luckily I checked out her author’s page before I wrote anything. 😛

  6. This one is definitely one of my faves too! I found lots of the passages were totally relatable and Elise — I have never been so connected with a character before. And about Char, I pretty much agree with Giselle. The romance didn’t turn out as what I (and Elise) predicted but how Elise handled everything made me admire her even more. That doesn’t usually happen in YA books so thumbs up for Leila Sales!

  7. I really cannot wait for this one to be released, it looks really good and everyone seems to like Elise’s character very much.

    Fab review, hon! <33

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  9. I like reading books about music, so This Song Will Save Your Life pretty much got me at the title. And I just love those huge headphones on the cover!! I also ❤ dark-ish books, so I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy this. And a non-romance centered ya book? How refreshing! Great review, Meg! 🙂

  10. Yay! I loved this one too. Everything about it was just so easy to identify with. ❤

    Personally I liked that Sales didn't explain too much of the DJing stuff. I think what was explained was enough to show how it played a part in Elise's development, without alienating the readers that don't understand or have as much of an interest in DJing.

    • *high five*

      Hmm, that makes sense. I guess I would have appreciated it if Elise told us a little of how the DJing stuff worked, so that we could get a better understanding of why it called to her so much. I know — I’m not making much sense. I just wanted to have a deeper understand for her love for DJing, I think.

  11. Made your life feel a little more incomplete, in a good way – I think I get what you’re saying. And that’s a really powerful thing to say about a book because it indicates to me that it had a great impact on you. And you know, from your description, I feel like I would probably be able to heavily relate with the MC, as well. Wow, okay so you’ve totally sold me. I think this one would end up being a truly meaningful read for me! (even if I didn’t recognize any of the songs either). Thanks for this review, Meg – you really got my attention with it.

    • Oh, that’s a relief! I tend not to make sense when I’m trying to convey something ultra meaningful to me, so I’m glad you understand. Let me tell you, because I could relate to Elise so much, I even thought of following her example and going out on midnight walks around the neighborhood while everyone’s asleep. Just on the off-chance that I could, you know, find a place like Start. That’s how much it impacted me. I wanted to DO something. Yay! You should read it, Aylee. It’s a must-read — even for non-contemporary lovers such as myself. 🙂

  12. Pingback: Warp Drive Sunday: Sept 8 – Sept 14 | Adrift on Vulcan

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