Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)
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.
This Song Will Safe Your Life is both refreshing and brutally honest about what it is to live as a unique semi-misfit teenager who's slowly figuring out who she is. This book is about finding friends who will actually be friends, about connecting with other people, and about coming to terms with being different.
At the beginning, Elise is depressed and ready to give up on life. She doesn't see the point in being special or being different because of the ways her classmates have reacted to her during their school years. Basically, what Elise does isn't cool/is different from how they do it and they don't like it/she should change everything about herself. And so she gives up on being different. It never got her the friends or the popularity she thought she would get.
Elise's problem is that years of bullying have left her with the inability to like herself, to appreciate her quirks and interests. Getting over that big a hurdle will be difficult, but she'll have to do it if she wants any kind of opportunity to make friends and finally be happy. If she really wants Vicki, Pippa, and Char in her life. If she really wants to DJ.
The book is peppered with flashbacks of the bullying Elise suffered during her school years. Classmates laughing at her for using complicated words, talking behind her back, stealing her things. This kind of bullying is all too familiar and common. It seems to be part of being a kid that, when someone does something different (meaning not the way they do it) it's funny. Talking different, wearing different clothes, liking different music. Elise's differences unfortunately make her an easy target, both as a child as as she attempts to navigate the complex social cliques that make up high school. Their bullying leaves her to see life as hopeless. It's sad that it hurts her so much as a child, and it's sad that it still hurts her as a teenager, but unfortunately, bullying like that is common.
It's all about Elise figuring out who she is and where she fits into the massive train wreck that can be life. It's not necessarily about fixing all of her flaws because they make her the weird, honest, precocious, confused, music-loving girl she is, but more of her understanding them. More of her understanding that popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be. More of her realizing that maybe she's okay the way she is. More of her learning how friendship can be messy with all its unwritten rules and the ways it can save you.
I found this book to be complicated and sad and painful, but those are the teenage years. As unfair as they are, as torturous as they are, as revealing as they are. It wasn't hard to see bits and pieces of my own high school experience in Elise's, which meant it wasn't hard for me to follow her so closely throughout this book, from the first page to the last. For everyone who felt like a misfit in high school, I would recommend this book.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)