Monday, August 19, 2013

A DJ Saved My Life Tonight

Expected Publication:  September 17th, 2013
This Song Will Save Your Life
By: Leila Sales
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN-13:  9780374351380
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.
     I got this book as part of a tour site I'm a member on and we get five passes per year.  I almost used a pass towards reviewing this one, just because of the sheer personal pain that reading it brought me.  As someone who was bullied from grades 1-8 and spent the rest of my teenage years in awkward, shy distrust (and a few of my adult ones too), this was very difficult.  When I was reading Elise it was like looking in a mirror.  A little kid doesn't realize that they're doing something 'wrong' by being different - until other people start pointing it out and mistreating them for it.  I was lucky enough that when I reached high school the bullying ended and I found a measure of piece.  I also never got quite far enough to attempt suicide, but I did consider it many a time when I'd come home crying and heartbroken that no one liked me. 
 Me as a Zombie Princess in 5th Grade, LONG before it was cool.
     Elise wears all the wrong clothing.  She listens to all the wrong music.  And for the life of her, she can't figure out why everyone seems to hate her so much.  So this year, Elise is going to try something completely different.  She's going to buy clothes like everyone else wears, stop being the first with an answer in class and most of all Elise is going to be anyone but herself.  When even that doesn't work, Elise tries to kill herself.  Even that doesn't turn out how she though she wanted it to.  So when walking one night Elise stumbles on party girl Pippa and her musician friend Vicki, headed for the hottest underground party around.  Elise goes with them to Start and it changes her life.  Connecting with hot DJ Char, she starts to learn how to DJ as well and finds something she's truly passionate about.  But having friends for the first time in her life, and the complications they bring with them, Elise's entire life is turned upside down.  With the bullying at school intensifying and things at home blowing up as well, can Elise figure out what the right thing is?  And can she manage to figure out who she is in the process?
     I think that Elise was a startlingly realistic character.  That didn't always mean that she was the best person or the most interesting one in the room, but it meant that I cringed when she was treated like dirt.  I felt bad for her, even when she did stupid things like try to commit suicide and destroyed her little sister's school project (to try and get her to be normal like everyone else).  And as someone who's been there, it's difficult to feel like you're from a different planet than everyone else.  Romance was not a large factor in this book, but Elise did get into a quasi-relationship with Char (the hot, college-aged DJ who mentors her at first).  He turned out to be someone different than she though, acting like a womanizing douchebag most of the time.  But I think the dynamic between them and Char's twisted relationship with Pippa, a messed up British girl, help Elise realize that not everything's always what it seems.  Other people have problems too, they can just be better at hiding them. 
     Vicki's acceptance of Elise and her refusal to be shut out by her was awesome.  Not to mention Mel the doorman, who is just downright awesome.  I did like that Elise's parents were involved in her life, but agree with some other readers that they were somewhat clueless.  Sometimes parents just don't get bullying and how devastating it can be.  The resolution with the kids at her school was realistic as well.  Elise's attitude towards other people and her snobbery when it came to music was just downright mean at times though.  And the way she treats two gossipy, fellow unpopular girls from school who actually make an attempt to be her friend is rude and condescending.  That was the only thing that bugged me really in this book as an annoyance factor - Elise acting like she thought she was better than everyone (but feeling so lost without their approval).  Overall it was an intense read and I highly recommend it as a realistic look at bullying, especially for teachers and parents who feel like they just don't get it.  For former victims of bullying and those who might have had a suicide attempt, WARNING.  THIS BOOK CONTAINS TRIGGERS.
VERDICT:  4/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication is September 17th, 2013.*

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