August 19, 2013 by Alice in Readerland
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, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
Special thanks to Macmillan/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR) for letting me read an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales will be in stores September 17th, 2013.
This is one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to write, because there are some things that I absolutely, positively loved about this book, and then there was something about this book that really, really bothered me. Basically, my reaction to this book went from this:
How did that happen? Well, first let’s start with:
The YES! Section
The Main Character’s Voice
Elise’s narration is the type of narration that I wish was in more books. Her voice was honest, hilarious, quirky, and sounds just like your friend is telling you a story. Nothing about Elise’s narrative seemed forced or contrived. The very first sentence made me adore the book and Elise’s character. I wish I was allowed to quote from the ARC, because there were some really hilarious quotes.
The DJ/Music Aspect
I loved, loved, loved reading about Elise and her DJing. Elise, who had felt so dorky and lame, finds this one thing that makes her feel wonderful, beautiful, and powerful. She finds that she has such a talent for DJing and she owns that talent. Hearing about how Elise reads the crowd to see what they want, how she connects to the music, and how she feels when she’s DJing was perfect.
I absolutely adored most of this book. For the first part of it, I was thinking about how high I was going to rate it, how I would be recommending it all around, and how I needed to get myself a physical published copy when it came out.
But then the second part of this book happened and it made me realize something.
Cynical Cindy with the NO Section:
How this Book Handled Suicide
In my opinion, if you’re going to write about suicide, you’ve got to have a place in the book where you talk about it seriously. Suicide should not just be used as a plot aspect of your book, especially an aspect that helps keep the book going and is frequently mentioned, if you aren’t going to spend time talking about how serious it is. As someone who has known people who have either attempted suicide or have committed suicide, it is a topic that I take very seriously. While I myself have never personally thought about suicide, I am still a teen and know that this is an issue among my peers.
What I didn’t mind was how Elise thought about suicide in the beginning of the book. We see that she’s procrastinating on what way to suicide, and then we see her make a music playlist to die by. Elise eventually realizes that she did not want to die, she just wanted attention. I thought this was a great take on the subject to bring out, because I have yet to see it in another book and because I’ve actually listened to someone tell me this before. This is real, and it happens.
What I DID mind: Later, Elise finds a “suicide blog,” using her full, real name and talking about how she’s (“Elise’s”) going to suicide. Elise did not take this seriously or bother telling anyone to try to fix it or figure out what was going on. Then, the one attempt one character made about a suicide discussion was a brief “You’re worth it,” statement, and while that was great, it felt too glossed over and more like a placatory band-aid than a real discussion.
I think everything would have been okay if the topic of suicide was later explored seriously, but instead, the topic of suicide just felt like a plot mover.
I loved the first half of this book. I loved the voice, the quotes, Elise’s best friend, and Elise’s talent. I love that she went from being depressed to feeling empowered. I was ready to say that this was a book that I would easily read again and love. But the way suicide ended up being handled bothered me enough to not pick up this book again. Again, this is a personal topic for me, so while the book bothered me, it may not bother you.
Have you read This Song Will Save Your Life? What did you think of it?