Today, I'm gushing wildly over my love for This Song Will Save Your Life. This book absolutely won my heart, and I hope that you guys will check it out as well!
Hardcover, 288 pages
Format read: Finished copy (owned)
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
I had the opportunity to read This Song Will Save Your Life as an ARC, but opted not to because I just wasn't sure about the book. For some reason, the synopsis just didn't click with me.
However, everyone I knew started giving the book five star reviews right around the publication date, and these are tough (though thoughtful!) critics that don't just hand out stars without reason.
So I picked up a copy of the book at the bookstore, and BAM. I got it. From the very first page, Elise absolutely sucked me in.
Things that worked:
Elise Dembowski's voice jumps off the page from the very first sentence, Sales has created a character that is strong, memorable and utterly relatable.
From the first chapter, Elise relays truths about her life that are delivered with frank, almost painful honesty. She shares her long-standing goal to become popular, and how each and every failed attempt has only driven the dagger in her side a little deeper.
In the first half of the book, I often found myself nodding along with what Elise was thinking, including her resignation at being bullied, or even her decision to attempt suicide, just to be noticed. As someone who was Elise in high school, it felt like Sales had perfectly captured every insecure thought that I ever had about myself, and I think that other readers will absolutely feel the same.
Even as Elise began developing her DJ skills and started finding more confidence, I was impressed at how Sales charted her growth. Elise didn't immediately become a popular, confident hotshot. Instead, she seriously struggled along the way, as she tried to really define herself.
As for the secondary characters, they're absolutely rich and so, so thoroughly drawn in their own right. Sales presents both a fantastic supporting cast of secondary characters (Vicky! Mel!) and a number of antagonists (Emily!) for Elise to deal with, all of whom really help open her eyes to the idea that just because people are viewed a certain way, doesn't mean that they're right for her.
I've read a lot of reviews saying that This Song Will Save Your Life is "exceptionally plotted", and I have to agree.
While the general storyline is fairly straightforward - girl discovers something she loves, and works hard to get good at it/keep at it - Sales includes a number of plot twists and turns that are genuinely surprising, but also absolutely adds to the story.
Elise has a moment where she tries to prevent her sister from becoming the misfit that she believes herself to be, which I think will break the heart of readers two-fold - both because of why Elise did what she did, and how her family reacted.
* The music factor
I've read fiction titles that have incorporated music before, but nothing like this. Music isn't just a hobby or a fascination for Elise - it's a way of life.
Sales uses music not only as a way to show a person's ability to develop a very specific interest or a hobby, but as a general metaphor for passion and life. Even the non-musically inclined readers will absolutely understand why Elise and several secondary characters use music as that way of life.
The romance in This Song Will Save Your Life was definitely one of the high points for me. Sales absolutely captured the idea of crushing and getting involved with someone because of what they supposedly represent, and then realizing that the reality isn't as good as what you originally believed.
Without giving any spoilers away, I think that the relationship that Elise develops with Char is one of the most intelligent ones I've seen in YA recently. It's based on a lot of assumptions, but it's also handled in a way that shows growth recognition on what Elise does and doesn't want in her life.
* The parents
If you've read any of my previous reviews, you'll know that I am a big advocate of parents appearing in YA stories. So I loved the fact that Elise's parents both play roles in the story.
The conversations that Elise had with them are part of the reason why I think this book is so special - they hit at the heart of why teenagers feel misunderstood, and how sometimes, it's possible to bridge that gap.
Things to consider:
However, Sales presents those issues and the actions of characters in a way that is frank, intelligent and will undoubtedly provoke meaningful discussion.
* It's timely, with the inclusion of many serious issues that are impacting teenagers these days.
* it focuses on the DJing culture - which is not often seen in YA.
* It features a realistic romance, while emphasizing friendship over boys.
* It has a heroine that is real and relatable, and readers will likely find things in common with her that they never anticipated...
...just to name a few.
But that's the best part about Sales' book. It's so thoroughly embodies the teenage experience, that each reader will find something different to like and relate to as they read.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes YA fiction, but especially for fans of contemporary YA fiction. I also recommend this book for people who remember what it was like to be a little odd, a little different in high school, and what it was like to finally find your way.