Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
This Song Will Save Your Life is one of those books that everyone's been raving about. I picked it up at BEA and then delayed reading it for reasons I can't remember. I wish I hadn't waited so long, but no matter - I read it and it's wonderful.
This Song Will Save Your Life is a serious contemporary novel. So serious that I sometimes felt like I was peeping at a train wreck and dreaded what was going to come next when I turned the page. This sounds like a bad thing, but really the book was beautiful. Beautiful in a depressing sort of way. Don't worry though, it does have an uplifting end.
The main thing that I loved about this book was Elise, the main character. She's one of the best written leads in a YA novel that I've read this year - almost as good as Cather in Fangirl. Elise is at the bottom of the social rung at school. Like many unpopular kids, she yearns to fit in but quickly discovers that wearing the right clothes or acting cool don't elevate you to Popular.
Elise is often pretty dour. Much of the book she is sulking over how bad everything in her life is. That personality trait is basically par for the course in YA, but what made her different was the strong undercurrent of self-confidence which verged towards arrogance. Elise hates thinking differently, liking different music, being different but at the same time she revels in it. She thinks she's both inferior and superior to her peers. She's even condescending towards the other unpopular girls who take pity on her and hang out with her at school. If Elise was a real person, I don't think I'd like her but she was a fascinating person to read about.
I loved seeing how Elise's life changed when she chanced her way into an underground club and was introduced into the world of DJing. Suddenly she was a girl with talent. She was a girl with friends. She was a girl that boys looked at. Elise becomes involved - not really boyfriend/girlfriend - with Char the DJ, a college student.
Most relationships with such a big age gap are a bad idea and this is no exception, but I liked seeing how that train wreck unfolded. It was more character driven than catastrophic plot driven. Char is charming, funny, and sexy with a disturbing undercurrent of ambition, jealousy, and disloyalty. Don't worry though - if you're afraid that this is another book where a naive girl throws her life away for a handsome, older guy, it's not that. Elise dives in with her eyes mostly wide open and her relationship with him highlights that her sense of self worth is not as low as you'd expect.
Apart from Elise and Char, the side characters who include Elise's family and her new friends Vicky and Pippa are relatively flat characters. They serve to develop the story. My view of them as underdeveloped may be biased though since Elise and Char are so well written.
Leila does a wonderful job in conveying emotions in this book. I felt like I was falling into a deeper and darker hole with Elise as her life hit rock bottom only to stabilize and then fall a bit further. It made the journey out of the darkness at the end all the more fulfilling. I like a book that actually makes me feel rather than keeping distance between me and the page, even if it's not a good feeling.
If you're a fan of contemporary YA fiction, you'll love This Song Will Save Your Life. Same if you're a fan of good writing and well written lead characters. Don't read it if you're not in the mood to be depressed. Wait for a day when you're ready for a nice long tumultuous journey that will make you feel better at the end.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
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