Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Release date: September 17, 2013
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Age group: YA
Pages: 288
Purchase the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

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, Leila Sales' THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

Oh man, this book truly was something special. Going into this, I expected a cute, fluffy YA contemporary romance. I love cute, fluffy YA contemporary romances, but this one was so much more. It is not really cute, it definitely isn't fluffy, and I wouldn't call it a romance either. Instead, it is a story about the pains of growing up, about fitting in and about finding yourself through finding your passion. 

Elise has always found it difficult to make friends. She feels like she has always been a bit too much of a smart-mouth to her own good. She has never learned what is considered "cool" or "in" and though she has tried to avoid attention, she has gained it through becoming the butt of jokes. She is the ultimate outsider. And what she wants more than anything is to fit in. After she spends the whole summer trying to learn things that would make it possible for to fit in, Elise is sure that now is her time to stop being an outsider. But when her plan fails, quite miserably so, she is not quite sure what to do. Or whether she should do anything at all and just give up on everything. 

At a moment of desparation, Elise finds herself wandering the streets at night. During one of her walks, she finds Start, an underground dance party. There she meets Vicky, a girl who has herself struggled with fitting in, Pippa and Char, a cute DJ who promises to show Elise the ropes and thus introduces her to the world of DJing. 

Through DJing Elise, who has always loved music, finds a voice and finally feels like she fits in somewhere. Though I am not into DJing myself, I was able to relate with how Elise felt when she finally found what she really loves - if you were to change DJing with books or films, that would be my story. Though I never really was an outsider, I was able to relate with Elise in the sense that I often felt like I was not quite sure how to act or what to say in order to fit in. What differentiates Elise from me is the fact that I never really desperately wanted to fit in. That does not mean that I was not able to feel for Elise though. Throughout this book, I so badly wanted her to find herself and to feel like she has a purpose in the world. This struggle and the things Elise need to go through in order to find her own happiness make This Song Will Save Your Life a coming-of-age story NOT TO BE MISSED.

One thing that I definitely was able to relate with right away when it comes to Elise is her constant need to win and to gain more information. If she starts a new hobby, she instantly needs to master it. If she starts a new project, she cannot sleep before she is done. That impulse to master something and to learn as much as possible and never leave things unfinished is something I feel on a deeper level, because that is EXACTLY like me. In my life, it has been both a good thing and a bad thing. My mom's husband often says that he asks me to do little projects around the house just because he knows that I will do everything well and finish my work. That is a good thing - it is nice to know that someone respects my work ethic. But when you are working in a group of five people and you are the only one who really wants to do the work, you soon become the person who starts to complain and to rush others. Soon, you become the person no one wants to do group work with and you learn that you actually work better on your own. Whether you want it or not, you become bit of an outsider.

Elise isn't perfect. Especially at the beginning I was not quite sure of how I should feel about her. But I think the fact that she is so real and so complicated eventually made me love this book so much. She struggles with self-destructive thoughts and suicide, she hurts those close to her in order to make herself feel better, and sometimes she does not really know how to be a friend. But at the same time, she goes through a process that teaches her who she really is, and through that journey she learns to appreciate and love the people essential for her happiness.

Music definitely is a part of this story, though not as largely as I expected it would be. Music is definitely the factor that brings Elise and Char together. Char is a character that I kind of loved to hate. It seems like she is almost as confused as Elise is - not in a same way, but confused nevertheless. What they share is something they need at their lives at that moment, and it has an influence on Elise, but I do want to let you know that if you are looking for a cute romantic story, Elise and Char cannot give you that.

This Song Will Save Your Life is a well-written young adult contemporary novel with an important message. It is a story we can all relate in some way, whether we were the outsiders or the ones inside. It is a story about depression, about bullying, about family and most importantly, about finding your place in a world. I wholeheartedly recommend This Song Will Save Your Life to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU.


  1. One thing I liked about this book was that the families were really involved, even though they were impacted by divorce. It seemed very real to me. Glad you liked it!

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. Same here! I feel like often divorced parents are portrayed as enemies to each other, which very often is not the case. Yes, the relationship between the divorced couple might be awkward, and I think this book showed that awkwardness very realistically.


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