Tuesday, 15 October 2013

This Song Will Save Your Life

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Paperback, 288 pages

Expected Publication 10th October by Macmillan Books
Shelves: arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, contemporary, favourites, lasting-impression, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, really-good, suicide, title-appeal, to-read, young-adult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ’ing. 
But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

An irresistible novel about hope, heartbreak and the power of music to bring people together.

It seems like I haven't given five stars to a book for a very long time, because that honour only goes to books that have a profound effect on me, something that really pulls me in and more often than not, leaves me emotionally battered (though thankfully I escaped that this time). This Song Will Save Your Life is one of, if not the best contemporary book that I've read in years.

The book introduces us to Elise, a teenage schoolgirl who never seems to fit in with anyone else, no matter how hard she tries. Elise has gotten so tired of trying and failing at making friends that one night, she decides to attempt suicide, only being saved by a phone call. I knew from the first chapter that I was going to give this book a high rating because something about Elise triggered something within me. Though I won't go into detail in a review, when I was at school, I suffered severe clinical depression and so I could relate to a lot of things that Elise was saying and I could understand why she thought it was logical to kill herself - I had been in the same position, considering the same things. Elise's thoughts really, really struck a chord with me and I think it will with others who have had similar experiences. The writing and thoughts were just so matter of fact and raw and above all, realistic. It really felt like Sales was getting in my head and writing from the heart. I enjoyed sitting back and really absorbing the writing. There is no pretension, there is no elaborate sentences, Sales didn't need to do much more than to state the real, emotional truth to make her impact and leave us with a very quotable book.

On one of her nightly walks, Elise comes across a couple of girls who invite her into their secret club, a place where Elise soon begins to feel some form of acceptance and she seems to make friends with the girl, particularly Vicky, the bouncer of the club, Mel, and the DJ, known as Char or 'This Charming Man'. In the club, Elise realises that there are other people who share the same interests as her, music in particular, and through this, her character seems to open up a bit more and both this and her personality gain her the acceptance that she has wished for. Elise's relationships with Vicky and Char were certainly not straight forward, but the natural awkwardness that you'd expect was there, making them feel genuine. There is a sort of 'romance' between Char and Elise which I enjoyed reading about as I was curious about their chemistry. I loved Char's working attitude towards Elise as he taught her about DJing and all of the things that come with being a popular DJ and a young adult, too.

It was so fantastic to see Elise at her element in the club as she gained popularity by learning to DJ - there is a scene in the book where she looks at a photograph of herself in front of the crowd and it is a really striking moment and I felt a lot of pride for her. Music is obviously a big part of this book, so of course it's important to mention that aspect - this book is sprinkled with mentions of singers, bands and songs. I absolutely loved the playlist to this book - I'm a fan of 80's music, probably more so than modern music, so the mentions of songs from the likes of The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Erasure were exciting and even the slightly more modern stuff, such as Born Slippy NUXX livened up that Trainspotting fanatic inside me. The mentions of these artists brought me closer to the characters in the book in the same way that the music brought the characters closer to each other, and that is such an great feeling.

Another important aspect of this book that I don't want to leave out is Elise's relationship with her family. Her parents are divorced, and so she split her time between her parents. Due to the location of the club, Elise starts to spend less time with her father. I think that a lot of the emotion between Elise and both her parents and her young sister were actually left unsaid, but came across very well in just their behaviour and actions. One of the most humbling scenes in the book, for me, was between Elise and her sister towards the end of the book, which really hit me hard. 

In my opinion, This Song Will Save Your Life is the best coming-of-age, contemporary book since The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Leila Sales truly captivated me with her fantastic writing and definitely got me thinking about the importance of individualism, the effects of change and the importance of acceptance - accepting who you are and being you, whatever people think. 

This book has an absolutely AMAZING soundtrack to go alongside it - you can check it out on Spotify, if you use it. As both the characters in the book and I personally have a lot of love for The Smiths, I can't resist sharing what is perhaps my favourite song of theirs:


  1. Oh, I think I'm going to love this book too! (I got it for review too, but haven't gotten to it yet! but now I'm bumping it up)
    thanks for the lovely, thoughtful review.


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