“You think it’s so easy to change yourself.
“You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.”
It turns out trading in her unicorn boots for normal sneakers, researching pop culture online, and wearing a new headband on the first day of school isn’t enough. Nothing is ever enough.
Elise is ready to give up. She can’t go on like this–the punchline of every joke, the obvious target for every bully. With friends it might be bearable. But making friends, it turns out, is just as hard as becoming cool.
Then one magical night something finally does change when Elise wanders into a warehouse dance party. At the party Elise also finds people who accept her; not some mainstreamed version of herself, not the invisible version or the fake one. Just her. In the midst of the party and the magic Elise also finds something almost as important: DJing.
With a chance at real friends and something that makes her truly happy, Elise might be able to change herself after all in This Song Will Save Your Life (2013) by Leila Sales.
There is so much to love in this story. This Song Will Save Your Life is an obvious read for music fans. (Sales includes a partial playlist at the end of the novel.) Even at her lowest, Elise remains a proactive, sympathetic heroine. She is capable and, above all, Elise is very much herself.
While Elise is the powerhouse center of this novel, This Song Will Save Your Life is also peppered with fully realized secondary characters including Elise’s very modern, very blended family and the absolutely delightful Vicky.
Sales’ writing has a verve and spark here that makes Elise’s story infinitely compelling. Throughout the story Elise’s narrative remains sharp and very well-focused. Although she is troubled, Elise remains extremely self-aware and always questions outcomes throughout the story in a way that is both effective and refreshing. This Song Will Save Your Life is a smart, witty story filled with as much enthusiasm and energy as any dance party.
Possible Pairings: Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, Looking for Alaska by John Green, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner