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Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

9 Jul 2013

This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales 
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
Format: ARC

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

This song will save your life starts off with a melancholy tone. We’re introduced to the main character, Elise who is unpopular, friendless and would do anything to change that. She’s unpopular because she’s precocious. She’s different. She doesn’t conform to what society deems acceptable, whether it be fashion, music, looks, or intelligence; she has her own unique style. And that’s why she’s getting bullied. Elise has attempted to change her appearance to fit in, but like she said in the book, it just doesn’t work. And when all this hurt, anger and self-hatred builds up over the years, Elise considers one thing- suicide.

I think that for some people, in order to wholly understand or relate to Elise’s character and the situation she’s in, one has to have experienced bullying to some degree. I, unfortunately can’t 100% relate to her because honestly, I haven’t encountered bullying to her extent. I might’ve been bullied back in first or second grade when I couldn’t speak English, but that hasn’t had a profound impact on my life considering 1) I couldn’t understand what the bullies said to me and 2) I don’t remember all the details. As mean as it sounds, sometimes I felt she didn’t entirely try to fit in despite how much she wanted to. She says she wants friends but I think what she really means is, ‘I want popular friends’. I didn’t like how Elise treated Sally and Chava at the beginning of the book; they truly tried to be her friend, but she pretty much thought “I’d rather not have losers as friends”. However, I’m glad Elise matured and realised that sometimes, you have to make an effort to make friends.

I highly enjoyed getting to know Elise’s new bunch of friends from Start, the town’s best underground dance club. I loved how through a mutual passion for music, Elise is able to meet some of the best friends a person could ask for. Vicky is the sort of friend everyone needs in their life; she genuinely cares about Elise and doesn’t judge. She stands up for her friends, is supportive, encouraging and I love how she took Elise under her wing without a second thought. I loved Mel, Harry and Dave as well<3 As for Pippa and Char, while I didn’t like their actions, I felt they were realistic representations of people in our society today. My feelings towards Char are conflicted; on one hand he seemed like he genuinely wanted to help Elise learn to DJ, and even encouraged her to pursue her love for DJing, but on the other hand, he also showed a selfish and slightly manipulative side. He's the type who helps people only if he's certain their abilities are beneath his & will never surpass him. He helps those he doesn’t have faith in. I didn't like this side of him but his character did feel realistic. 

I personally believe this is one of the most powerful YA contemporary books that holds the ability to leave a profound impact on its readers. It is thought-provoking, beautiful and a realistic story of self-discovery, and I would strongly recommend it to everyone. I’ll admit that I couldn’t relate to Elise’s actions/thoughts at times but I can’t pretend to understand what a person who has been bullied her entire life would feel/do. Music plays an integral role in this book, and I should mention that Elise has convinced me to well…listen to songs that are out of my comfort zone. So guys, definitely read this when you have time! I’m eagerly anticipating Sales’ next project :)

*Guys, you MUST read Emily May’s review ofThis Song Will Save Your Life. I cried- no kidding- I  cried while reading it, and I  never cry when I read reviews!
**If any poor Year 12s from NSW who are conducting a frantic search for a Belonging related text just happens to stumble across this post, I would highly recommend considering reading/using this book!

 A massive thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing for providing a copy of  This Song Will Save Your Life for review! 


  1. This book sounds close to home. I was also part of a subculture of music-obsessed kids. Will pick it up...

  2. I have never been seriously bullied, so I'm not sure I could fully relate to Elise's character, but it does sound like it is easy to connect with this book, nonetheless. I've been hearing nothing but good things about this so far! I read Emily May's review and it nearly moved me to tears too. I'm so glad it worked for you, Shirley. Although it isn't something I would normally be attracted to, I definitely want to give it a try in the future. Brilliant review!

  3. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this book so much Shirley. I have it coming up soon and just know that I will most likely have to have some tissues at the ready for this story. You have done a wonderful job of illustrating just how much of an effect the story had on you, I love it when a story leaves such a great impression with you afterwards. Lovely review :)

  4. This sounds like such a great book, I've seen this on NetGalley but I didn't request and I'm kicking myself right now. The ones that make a emotional effect on me are my favourites and I don't get emotional very easily that for sure. I really can't wait to read this. Lovely review Shirley as always! :D xxx

  5. This is the second time I've read a positive review of this, the other one was from Jasprit! And I think the two of you are enough to make me want to read this already. This sounds very profound and touching and a book that will definitely connect to a lot of readers. Thanks for the lovely review, Shirley! :)

  6. I've heard really great things about this one! I never experienced bullying in high school but I love books that explore this serious topic. I hope I end up loving it when I do get around to it. And I definitely will. Because there's music in it. Also Shirley, HA! If we're going to go around recommending texts for Belonging we'll be here all day. :P

  7. This sounds like a really powerful and stunning read Shirley! I'm with you in that I've luckily never experienced bullying to the extent Elise has so I can't pretend I know anything about how desperate that would make someone feel or the lengths they would go to make it stop, but I love that despite not being able to relate on that fundamental level, you still adored this book. Lovely, lovely review!

  8. I hadn't realized this was about bullying. I'm even more interested now. I'm so glad it hit the right tone, and is neither too melancholy or too comedic. Added to my TBR. :)

  9. This sounds a book that I would like to read and yes I think it discusses a topic that many teenagers can relate to -- bullying.

  10. This sounds like such a heartwarming and emotional story, Shirley! I like it when characters are realistic even if they're not likable. It's such a shame this girl felt so despondent but I'm glad she made friends that helped her through. It's what we all need. Lovely review! :)

  11. I love emotional books so I think this one would be a winner for me. I've been bullied, but nothing like the MC. She sounds like she is really strong.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following me :) I have followed you back.

  12. Woah Shirley awesome review!

    I read the beginning but put it down because it was getting really sad and depressing but from what you've said I'm gonna finish this :D


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