Review: “This Song Will Save Your Life” by Leila Sales

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Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Pages: 288
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: September 17, 2013

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Quick Synopsis: 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.

My Review: I bought This Song Will Save Your Life during the huge Boxing Day Book Outlet sale last year because I really wanted to read it, but I also didn’t want to pay full price for such a short book. All I knew about it was that it had a heavy focus on music and that it had been getting pretty good reviews. Why not, right? Fast forward to now, and I finally gave it a go. Why did I wait so long? I don’t even know. I guess that sometimes just happens when your TBR pile is as big as mine is. Anyway, I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It’s not that I expected it to be bad, but it’s always nice for a book to have been better than you anticipated.

In a lot of ways, I could see my younger self in Elise, the protagonist. Of course, there were many ways in which we were also very different, but I found her to be a generally relatable character, and I liked that. She spent a lot of the book just trying to get by in high school. She was bullied on a daily basis and had an impossible time making friends, but her music was always the one thing that could help her through another day. That is, until she accidentally stumbles upon a nightclub in a warehouse and discovers her passion for DJing. While I found Elise relatable, I also thought Vicky, a friend that Elise makes at the nightclub, was a character that many readers could probably connect with. She definitely wasn’t the typical YA best friend, thank God. Even Char, DJ extraordinaire and nicknamed after the Smith’s song “This Charming Man,”  could have been any nineteen year old college boy. The way Sales takes these ordinary, every day characters and tells an authentic, believable story was one of my favorite things about this book. If you read this book, odds are you will connect with at least one of the characters, which I can’t say is true for every book.

 In YA, books centering on music have the potential to be extremely pretentious, and I thought this would be one of those books. Fortunately, because of the DJing aspect, it didn’t feel that way. Sure, the characters all listened to the same classic rock/pop, but they weren’t saying how much better their music taste was compared to everyone else’s on every page. And even though I didn’t know some of the bands/songs mentioned, I didn’t feel like I should have. I didn’t feel like I was being mocked for it. This seems like a small thing to praise a book for, but I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the music aspect is pretentious. I’ve also never read any books revolving around DJing, so that was refreshing, especially since I knew nothing about the practice.

On a different note, while reading, I couldn’t help but get some Laurie Halse Anderson vibes. There were several elements and themes in This Song Will Save Your Life that reminded me of Speak or Wintergirls by Anderson. This meant there was a lot about identity, mental illness, friendships, bullying, etc. Books involving all of those topics are, to me, always most effective with young protagonists, and it’s the only time I really enjoy reading about characters who are under the age of seventeen. I think I enjoy them because, as a 21 year old, it’s easy to forget what those gross teenage years were like, but when I read a book like this, I not only remember that being fifteen or sixteen is a universal struggle, but I come to the realization that, hey, I don’t have most of these problems anymore. Look how far I’ve come! It’s reasons like this that prove YA can be rewarding and important for the fifteen year old and the twenty-something year old equally.

The only little problem I had with this book is something spoilery, so I’ll try to be vague about it. The implied romance for the protagonist at the end felt unnecessary. I don’t know why authors feel the need to pair people off at the end just so that they have someone, because it doesn’t always work. Here, I think it would have been much more effective if the protagonist’s story ended with her and her friends being happy without a boy thrown in. However, before that, all of the romance/relationship-y stuff was done well, and the book gave a realistic look at how first romances/hookups aren’t always super fluffy and don’t always workout. That was extremely refreshing to read.

To wrap things up, I enjoyed this book a lot. The writing was lovely, the plot was engaging, and the characters went through extensive development. I would recommend it to anyone who likes novels about music or identity.

My Rating:

4.5 stars

Half a star rating taken off for the unneeded implied romance.

That’s it for today! I realize this is my first post in awhile, but I’ll be back asap to do my August wrap-up!

If you’ve read This Song Will Save Your Life, tell me your thoughts about it in the comments section below! Have a great weekend!

Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica

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