This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. Currently Available.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Face Value: This is a super cool cover and I love it a lot. Elise looks 100% like Glendale’s Hottest DJ in this cover. It is contemporary and reflects the story, and has a great aesthetic. No pastels or headless girls or floating dresses in sight. More covers like this please!
Does it Break the Slate? This is such a Slatebreaking story and one that I really wish I could have read when I was in high school. Though I never went through the depth of bullying that Elise did, I deeply related to her sense of helplessness, that people will never undersatnd or appreciate or even like her. And the triumph in going on this journey with her, seeing her come into her own as she discovers herself as a DJ is fantastic and absolutely Slatebreaking.
Who would we give it to? As I mentioned, I want to give this book to my high school self. And I am reasonably certain that there are about a million other teenagers who will identify with and appreciate Elise’s story. Sales has an authentic teenage writing style that continues to grow with each of her books, and I really hope that the fans of Sarah Dessen and Maureen Johnson start to discover and read her work. Also if you love Jessica Darling, you will probably love Elise Dembowski, just saying.
Review: Elise Dembowski has never been popular. She’s always been on the outside, never quite able to find her stride in a social group at school. She’s not even trying to be popular – she just wants to not be invisible. After a half-hearted and unsuccessful suicide attempt things are even worse. But when she discovers a secret underground dance club on a late night walk she not only finds people who understand her, she discovers a secret talent and passion for DJing that starts to (as you might have guessed, from the title), if not save, at least change her life.
It’s hard to write about things like suicide in a way that is honest and authentic but not overly maudlin or issue-y and Sales totally nails it. I related to Elise SO MUCH and I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her how much better things are going to be in college. Sales struck a great balance in crafting her narrative of balancing her humor and sarcasm with how much she is struggling. The story gets dark, but it never gets bogged down in it, which is a pretty impressive feat.
But let’s talk Slatebreaking. Can we talk about how completely BADASS being a DJ is? It’s awesome. I mean if you are going to find yourself, being a DJ at an underground night club is a seriously awesome way to do it. Start, the aforementioned night club, is a wonderful cornerstone to build Elise’s transformation around, being both a great narrative device and seriously fun sounding night club. Reading about it made me want to go out and dance all night.
It’s not just the nightclub that transforms Elise’s world though. Vicky and Pippa introduce Elise to start and give her the sense of friendship and belonging she had been aching for. Vicky, especially becomes a catalyst for Elise taking charge of her own life and becoming the person that she has always felt like she wanted to be. Great friendship are one of my favorite things to read about in YA. And even Sally and Chava, the quasi-friends Elise has at school turn out to be way more than meets the eye. And I love a book that features great parents who love their kid and are doing everything they can to make sure she is safe and happy, even if they don’t always know how to help her.
Then there’s boys. Without too much of a spoiler, I appreciated the fact that Char, the sexy DJ who teaches Elise the business and also..other things…was both thrilling and ultimately disappointing.
Every book Leila Sales writes gets better and better. This is my favorite one yet, and I am really excited to see what comes next from this author.
Reviewed from library copy