This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life

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This Song Will Save Your Life
Author(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
September 17, 2013
ISBN
978-0374351380
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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. 

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A New Favorite

TSWSYL is the story of Elise Dembowski’s struggle and ultimate success with finding herself, embracing identity, and making herself happy. Elise has never been cool. She has never been even close to a cool kid. She has been bullied, tormented, picked on, and ridiculed for as long as she can remember. Elise is good at things – usually too good. She can pick up an instrument in a weekend, master a craft practically overnight, and ace most of her tests at the same time. She likes boots with unicorns on them and sequin-embellished belts. This does not make her cool.

The summer before her sophomore year Elise decides that she will be cool this year. All she needs to do is practice. So she does – she treats coolness like homework, and studies-studies-studies, shops for trendy clothes, watches trendy movies, reads the newest fashion magazines, and stalks trendy blogs online. When the first day of the school year arrive, Elise feels ready to change. But nothing does. She is still Elise Dembowski, insult magnet and unfashionable smart kid that no one likes. Elise decides that day to kill herself. She tries – and doesn’t – and nothing changes.

The narrative of Elise’s thoughts is mesmerizing. Page-turning. So real and honest and blunt.

"All I wanted was to listen to music, but wearing headphones makes you look cut off from the rest of the world, antisocial. I wasn’t going to be antisocial this year. I was decidedly pro-social.”

“Just keep walking, I told myself. It’s like when Lizzie Reardon calls your name in the hallway. Just keep walking. Think invisible, and if you’re lucky maybe you will become invisible."

Elise could be any bullied high school girl, but she’s not – she’s different. And that kind of different that makes her even more unpopular is what draws you into her mind.

"Here are all the dance floor experiences I’ve had so far in my life:

1. Ruining the Tiny Dancers year-end recital at the YMCA when I was six years old because I didn’t know how to skip.

2. Going to a school dance in 7th grade, where they played songs like ‘Shake Your Ass,’ only with the word ass bleeped out, and everybody grinded up on everybody else, except nobody grinded up on me.

So, for what I think are some pretty good reasons, I don’t dance."

This was one of my favorite books from 2013. I daresay that it might be my favorite book I’ve read this year. I know, it’s not even February, but when you read a book entirely in one sitting, cried after just the first chapter, and then want to read it again the next day there is definitely something important going on. And that’s what happened.

I could really relate to Elise. There was so much she did and said that most people just don’t say or do, and I could really relate. Because I do those things and say those things. I have always been picked on for being smart. I hate that feeling, and Elise does, too. She really doesn’t understand why it happens, and I am only just now starting to. Elise’s relationship with Char is so unlike most YA romances, but it is so real. It is was really happens between girls who are distant from their families, who have few to no friends, and guys who are so disconnected from their girls. Vicki and Pippa adopting Elise into their circle was so like what happened to me in high school when I found my best group of friends. There is just so much to relate to, for teens and older young adults, and yet so much to learn from Elise, as well.

In the end, I was so happy with TSWSYL. I shut the book feeling satisfied, complete, and triumphant because Elise won in the end. She found herself, she embraced what she loved and what she wanted and who she really was, and that made her happy. It wasn’t easy, or fast, or without heartbreak and struggle and fighting, but she made it happen.

I highly recommend TSWSYL to teens who want a contemporary story, a realistic romance, a coming-of-age adventure, or just a really good book. I would also recommend it to older young adults who are fans of music, dancing, and who may feel a little like a DJ sometimes.

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Another Win

Oh Leila Sales, I will never tire of your books, even when you go off in a kind of different direction. This Song Will Save Your Life is more serious than Leila Sales other novels, and it is another absolute stunner. While I don't think it has quite beat my love for Mostly Good Girls, it still is an excellent read overall, and really I just have to say, who but Leila Sales could write a book about DJing and bring out all the feels? Oh, just love!

I LOVED the contents of this book - LOVED. Seriously, how many other books that have DJing in them out there are there? Not many I'll tell you. It was different and definitely drew me in. I wasn't instantly drawn in - instead, This Song Will Save Your Life was a slow build sort of book, and by the end, I was so invested there was no going back.

I loved that even though This Song Will Save Your Life deals with a much more serious topic than Leila Sales's other books, it still contains that sense of humor and the light lilting writing. Leila Sales has such a unique, beautiful style of writing and I adore it.

You can do no wrong with a Leila Sales book! This is me signing off to begin my countdown for another winner from one of my favorite authors.

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(Updated: September 26, 2013)
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A Bit of an Identity Crisis

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is one of those stories about how the awkward, friendless teenager comes to love herself. The main character is Elise, who spends her summer trying to turn herself into a new girl, a “popular” girl, before the new school year. This attempt to be someone else, needless to say fails, and the rest of the book is spent trying to become her again.

As far as the story line and plot goes, it was good. It’s not a new concept but Leila Sales managed to do it in a different way, and if not a very deep one, at least an entertaining one. Most of the supporting characters were well written as well. Not many of them seemed particularly realistic, but that actually worked in this book. A few of them were a bit eye roll inducing, but that’s forgivable. The reason that it is so forgivable is Elise. Because the story is in first person she is narrating it and that part of her character I liked just fine. But in her dealings with the other characters, she was just plain catty and frankly unlikeable especially when it came to her family. This put a real damper on the book in general, and the inconsistency is frustrating.

THIS SONG is a story of self discovery and of individuality. It’s about being yourself even if you aren't who you wanted to be. Although it was well written for the most part, it’s not one of my personal favorites, but it’s worth a shot.

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This Song Will Touch Your Heart

What I Loved:
Just the other day on Twitter, I mentioned the fact that I couldn't really think of any YA heroines whose high school experience in any way recalled my own, and along comes This Song Will Save Your Life. For this reason, This Song was a really personal read for me, one that I found immensely moving, comforting, and beautiful. As a teenager, I wish Leila Sales' book had already been out, because it would have immensely helped and comforted my teenage self.

In the opening chapter of This Song Will Save Your Life, the reader meets Elise Dembowski, an incredibly unhappy but brilliant girl. Elise does not struggle academically and has a loving family; her divorced parents have worked out a great system, and do the best they can for her. However, Elise has never fit in with the other kids at school, and she's sick of being friendless and lonely. Being a girl who generally can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, she spends the whole summer learning how to be cool and just like the other kids. However, the first day of sophomore year does not go as planned and Elise decides to skip the second half of the day and commit suicide, all hope lost. And, I promise, this really is all in the first chapter.

Now, this may seem melodramatic to you, but all of this resonated with me so incredibly strongly. I see so much of myself in Elise Dembowski: her bitterness and desperation, her thoughts that maybe it won't be better and that it would be best to end it all. In my case, I never seriously contemplated suicide, but I did think about it, imagining everyone fraught with guilt and sadness that they never appreciated me in life. Like Elise, I really didn't have friends and could not understand why everyone was either antagonistic to me or completely ignored me. In her, I see what I also later learned about myself: the fact that part of the reason people avoided me was my own attitude, one I hardly realized I had. Though I was not actively bullied like Elise (at least in high school), everything she felt and experienced was so close to my own life in that period.

From there, Elise's experience no longer mirrors my own, but continues to be emotionally resonant and touching. This Song Will Save Your Life really is a story of a girl finding herself and discovering her passions. She's learning to accept who she is and how much happier life is when you stop judging yourself by the rules of society, and do and be what makes you happy. Accepting society's definition of yourself is so easy to do; learning to reject this is a crucial life lesson. I myself learned that in college and I have been so much more satisfied with life since, because I could finally quit chasing after things I don't actually want just because society says I should want them.

Unlike so much YA fiction, This Song Will Save Your Life focuses much more on family and friendship than on romance. I love Elise's family so much. Sales depicts a healthy example of both divorce and remarriage. Both her single father and her mother, remarried with two more children, love her and take good care of her. Elise's family situation is healthy, and, even when Elise misbehaves, they support her and really do encourage her in her pursuits. Even Elise's little siblings are adorable, and her relations with her younger sister Alex broke my heart.

With regards to friendship, Sales presents a realistic portrayal of high school dynamics. There's the stereotypical mean girl and brutish jocks, as well as the outcasts. However, Sales goes beyond the stereotypes and shows the ways that people can surprise you if you let them. Again, Elise's journey highlights the way that she pushes people away without realizing she's doing so, all the time desperately wishing for someone to like her.

Finally, the romance, which me being the person I am, I can't not talk about. Elise differs so greatly from the average YA heroine. There's not an instaloving bone in her body. She clearly distinguishes between lust and love. When a guy does something questionable, she will call him on it, being the forthright person she is. For once, I understand the motivations and logic of a YA heroine in her reactions with guys. All I'll say is that the romance was handled perfectly, precisely the way I hoped, and entirely in an atypical way for young adult novels.

The Final Verdict:
This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that I could see saving lives. I sincerely hope that young people who are friendless and desperate, who do not understand why no one likes them, find this book and know that they're not alone. It will get better, maybe not as soon as it did for Elise, but, out there in the world, there are kindred spirits and, if you hold on, you'll find them.

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An Important Book

Opening Line: You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.

This Song Will Save Your Life is. . . what are the words I can use to describe it, without sounding overly sentimental? This book is one of those books that I label as special. Those books that I add to the list of books that influence me as a person, the type of book that I hold to dear to my heart and I know will be revisited time and time again, not only in re-reads but also just reflections on how truly magnificent this book really is.

Elise is very similar to the person I was in high school. I think I had a few more friends in the latter high school years(I have good memories of those final two years), but the time before that? Desperate, lonely, and afraid are words I would use to describe myself and Elise. Perhaps I wasn’t quite to the point that Elise was, but I think without certain things in my life I could have definitely reached that point. And that’s why I loved Elise so much– she judged other people quickly sometimes, being so accustomed to being judge early herself, she made mistakes and was so hard on herself it was hard to read, but it all resonated with me so much.

Which is why I was such a fan of the journey that Elise took in this book. I was worried that it would be one of those “rise-to-fame” stories, very sentimental without any real heart or depth, but This Song Will Save Your Life was nothing of the sort. Elise cared passionately about music and her DJ’ing, and the way that passion sort of shone a light into Elise’s light was handled in a very real, sort-of-inspirational, but not cheesy, way.

This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that reminded me why I love the things I do, why I am passionate about certain things. It might not be music for me, like it is for Elise(though I’m a huge fan and am pretty passionate about music over all), but this book reminded me of how the things we love really can save and inspire us. It made me think back to my post about what books taught me, and I think that books are for me what music is to Elise. I just really loved the way This Song Will Save Your Life touched upon the idea that our passions can be so helpful to us, life-saving even.

I LOVED the relationships explored in This Song Will Save Your Life. All of them. Elise’s parents don’t really understand what she’s going through(partially because she won’t let them), but they really do care and are supportive. The way Elise’s parents interacted with her seemed realistic to me, which isn’t always what I can say in YA. The way friendships were handled was the main relationship highlight of this book for me, though. Because here’s the thing: Elise’s music might have saved her, but her friends she found through the music are what keeps that going. The friendships are messy at times, and they’re not perfect, but they were so well-done.

This Song Will Save Your Life could have been so much less than what it was, but it was clear to me from the start that this was a special book. This book has one of my all-time favorite last paragraphs, and when I closed this book, I felt supreme satisfaction in the story, yes, but I also felt connected to Elise and her story, and also the story of everyone who’s passion has ever saved their life, even once.

Final Impression: I honestly hadn’t even considered reading This Song Will Save Your Life until I heard Leila Sales speak at Austin Teen Book Festival, but I’m so glad I did, because it was a wonderful book. I related to Elise’s story so much and I think many others will too. It was a beautiful story and one I can’t wait to revisit. Flawless. 5/5 stars.

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This Song Will Save Your Life

Music and not fitting in, two things I can totally relate to. I don’t always enjoy Contemporary YA, but this book was really good.
I had a feeling this was going to be a sad, sad book, with themes like bullying, suicide and the likes.
I wasn’t hooked by the first chapter at all. I resented Elise for thinking that she had to give up her entire personality for the sake of popularity, only to move towards suicide if she didn’t get accepted socially. Weird message. But after a couple of more chapters, Elise grew onto me and I began to see her growth. The pace and development of her character is stellar.
Leila Sales has crafted such amazing characters, they are all crazy in their own way but so very real. Vicky was my absolute favorite, and Elise’s family is absolutely lovely. There is a lot of pain and courage in this story, but it is one that keeps you reading on because you want to know what happens to Elise.
Even if you can’t relate to Elise’s story, like me, that is no reason to not read this book. There are messages in this book that will do you a world of good, whether you relate or not, because being accepted means a lot to nearly everyone. There is an emphasis on self-discovery in this book, and the value of finding true friends and people who will accept you no matter what and let you be the way you are, let you do the things that make you happy.
The Final Words:
I am glad to have gotten the chance to read this book. It’s a remarkable story and will make an impact on your life, if you give it a try.

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The title is right- It will save your life

This Song Will Save Your Life struck too close to home.

I don't think I've ever read a book about the character which so openly discussed not being accepted. Sure, there are those sad books about bullying but there was just something special about Elise's character. Most of the time while I was growing up (and even occasionally, now) I didn't have a real true friend after my family moved into another country. When we moved everything changed. But when I think of it, people were always looking at me differently, even when I was a girl who refused to wear long hair like the rest of the normal girls around me, who would dress as a geisha on Halloween while other girls were princesses. But when we came back to the place I never even remembered because I was just a toddler when we had to move (there was a war raging back then). I was called all sort of bad things and none of my new 'friends' stuck up for me. It was natural to call me names, trip me so I would fall and rip my knees and arms and even spit on me. But the problem with those bullies is I never let them see me defeated. Sure I questioned if something was wrong with me. Why didn't they like me? Should I grow my hair out? Will I then be pretty just like the rest of those skinny adolescent girls? But my mom would Now I can just thank them for making me the way I am because if it weren't for them I wouldn't be my awesome self today. I wouldn't have impeachable taste in music and my hair wouldn't look like a rockstar's. Hell, when I come to think about it, if they haven't gone after me, they would find another victim and I might've been one of the bullies.

I was checking out reviews for this book and one of the bloggers said she didn't like the heroine because she was whining how hard her life is. She obviously wasn't bullied and doesn't understand how it feels to be an outcast. I love strong characters and Elise was one of them even though her power wasn't in open confrontation with the bullies but in self discovery and believing in herself.

This Song Will Save Your Life is my second Leila Sales novel. I read Past Perfect two years and wasn't the biggest fan. Leila redeemed herself with her latest work and I'm so glad I had the chance to get to know Elise, Vicky, Alex, Sally and Chava.

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