If you've ever been bullied, if you've ever felt like you didn't fit in anywhere, then I am almost positive This Song Will Save Your Life will be a book you enjoy. It's really difficult sometimes to read about issues that were such huge parts of our lives--painful, even--and this book was that for me at times. There is a lot to be inspired by here though, and it's done in a realistic way so that it's very believable.
As an adult my teen years are far behind me, and I am certainly thankful for that, but if you've had to deal with bullying, then I don't believe it ever really goes away. The things that we go through as children (yes, teenagers are still kids), really shape who we become as adults. And with that in mind, it's almost impossible for me to not get personal as I write this review. The entire time I was reading, I was thinking about my own experiences as they related to Elise's.
Elise is bullied in high school. The other kids are really cruel to her, and she has zero friends, at least until she adopts two girls that are even less popular that she is. The difference between Elisa and them though, is that they are invisible while she stands out. If you have to be unpopular, I would much rather be invisible. Elise is different. She tries to hard. She dresses eccentrically. She listens to music that is not popular with other teenagers. She can't relate to them, and so they pick on her. She walks at night to deal with the stress of the day, and one night she ends up at an underground nightclub called Start. There she can be someone else. Start is like Elise's stress reliever. The one place she can go where she is not known as Elise Dembowski, the freak. Elise gets an escape. Sort of off topic though, for a lot of bullied kids, there isn't a place they can escape to.
I wish I could give this book five stars. I really wanted to, but there was something that didn't sit right with me. And I thought about it, and it all comes down to Elise. I do empathize with her, and I sympathize with her too. But...she's kind of judgmental. And there are times when it is hard to like her. She complains that she doesn't fit in, but then she criticizes the other kids for the way they act, and dress, and the music they listen to. It's difficult for me to feel bad (though I still did), when she was kind of a brat at times. And listen, I am not for one second justifying the bullying because that is wrong no matter what. But Elise was kind of stuck up, and I had an issue with that.
The writing is excellent and the characterizations are excellent. I loved Vicky so much. I loved Elise's dad because he cared so much about her, and when Elise hurt his feelings, I cried. Ladies, if you have awesome dads, love them and cherish them. Because it's so terribly hard for fathers to relate to their daughters. That relationship can be awkward, but it's so adorable when they try hard. And work hard to provide for them. Elise's father made me think a lot about my own and what that relationship was like growing up.
This Song Will Save Your Life is an excellent book. I am a huge fan of Leila Sale's writing. I adored Past Perfect as well, but this is a read that is more difficult because of the serious topics it covers. However, there is a lot of fun to be had here in between the emotional stuff. It is a darker contemporary, but it's not going to be THAT dark. So if you're one of those readers that are hesitant to pick up darker books, I think this is one that may bridge the gap. This is a super special book for teens, and I wish there were more like this out there. I wish this book had existed when I was sixteen. I think it would have made a huge impact in my life. I needed it then and I still need it now.