Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ’ing.
But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?
An irresistible novel about hope, heartbreak and the power of music to bring people together.
Review: Elise is an outcast. She doesn’t have any friends, she is picked on at school, she doesn’t have anyone she can turn to for support. And after her latest attempt to reinvent herself and make friends fails, she even contemplates suicide. Elise feels that she is has no way out of her situation, and is bound to live a life as a social pariah, until she accidently meets Vicky and Pippa, who take her into an underground nightclub. It is here that Elise feels that just maybe she can make friends. And it is also here that she meets Char, and her love for DJing. And maybe, just maybe, she can be who she was meant to be.
This Song Will Save Your Life is raw and honest journey of insecurities, teenage dramas and finding your own identity. Elise has little self-value, a result of many of being “different” and bullied, of being the smart girl who prefers music over fashion, of a girl who is bogged down in insecurities that she doesn’t know how to stand up for herself, or see her true potential.
Elise is so filled with self-doubt, she second guesses peoples motives, and even her own choices, at every turn. Even when she meets Vicky, Pippa and Char, she cannot believe that they would actually want to be her friend. There are even times when starts to question if what everyone else says about her is actually true. I know that this is a part of being plagued with inner turmoil and self-doubt, but at times, I found her to be pretentiousness. And even though she detested the fact that she was constantly judged, I felt that she was also judgemental. pretentiousness I know it was all a part of the storyline of teenage insecurities, which is written with such raw honesty that it would feel wrong if some of these weren’t’ included – but I am still allowed to get a little frustrated at times :)
Elise however is determined. Determined to find herself, to find her place, and to just be herself. And that has to be respected. As Elise finds herself with the friends she has always desperately wanted, falling for a boy in a realistic but unsure manner, and finding her love for DJing, she truly shines. She finds herself – who she is, and what she loves. But there are still two sides of Elise, the outcast in high school and the latest “it” in the nightclub scene – but no one can live two very separate lives too long before they collide.
The secondary characters are also as real as the Elise. I loved watching her relationships develop with Vicky, Char, Chava and Sally. But, I have to say, my favourite is the Mel. I love this adorably protective character – and while a lot of the characters are not a focal point in the book, they are certainly a focal point in Elise’s journey. Every relationship is different, but told in a realistic manner, ranging from friendships that form due to bonding over being different, to jealousy over boys, to realistic, uncertain and complicated first loves. Each character and relationship helps Elise on her journey, no action, nor character, is irrelevant.
The ending, while not depressing, is also not filled with unrealistic happy-ever-afters. The realness of the story flows through to the very last page. It shows that people don’t change just because you want them too, it shows that forgiveness can given, it shows that true friendship is about more than yourself.
Leila sales has an unique ability to write in a completely honest way. She shows that families can be different but yet supportive, that falling for someone can be unclear and confusing, that you can want but not necessarily need someone, that high school can be a terrible experience, and that sometimes people struggle to find where they belong. This Song Will Save Your Life is a poignant, honest and heartfelt story that is a perfect example of self-doubt, finding your identity and finding your place in the world. It embodies insecurity, faith, fear wanting and courage. The ending is one that is a perfect message of hope, pride and self-awareness. This story showing that you need to find yourself, trust yourself, follow your desires – but most of all, you need to embrace life.
“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.”
“You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not. What do you think it takes to reinvent yourself as an all-new person, a person who makes sense, who belongs? They will still see past that, see you, the girl who is still too scared, still too smart for her own good, still a beat behind, still, always, wrong. Change all you want: you can’t change that. I know, because I tried.”
“You may wonder how I managed to make these friends. Well, I will tell you: making friends is actually not that hard when you drop every single one of your standards. “
“Sometimes, when you are worn down, day after day, relentlessly, with no reprieve for years piled on years, sometimes you lose everything but the ability to cry.”