Thursday, 14 November 2013

This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life is a perfect example of what I love about young adult writing: it has got everything I look for in a teen coming-of-age type story, so much so that I read it in almost one sitting. Morgan Matson, Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han commonly write this type of book too, so I’m very happy to have another author to call on when that’s just the kind of story I crave.

Elise is your average teenage girl except, for some unbeknownst reason, she’s unable to fit in. All she wants is to be included, to have friends, to not be the outsider. And so she spends her summer learning how to be cool – watching the right TV shows, picking out the right clothes, reading the right magazines. But life, of course, doesn’t work out the way we want it to, and when she returns to school all of her efforts - all of that work and research - none of it makes the slightest difference.

Time passes. Elise, to escape school and parental pressures, takes to long walks around the town at night. And there, out of the darkness, she stumbles upon an underground dance club. Suddenly, here is a place where she can be herself, where she makes friends, and where the young DJ takes her under his wing, tapping into Elise’s love of music and introducing her to the art of the DJ. Soon, Elise’s weekly visit to Start becomes the highlight of her week, the thing that helps her get through the school day, but she has to sneak around behind her parents’ backs to get there. And just when the biggest and best opportunity presents itself, the real world clocks back in and threatens to steal it all away again. Will she lose everything? Or can she find a way to have the best of both worlds?

Elise is a girl that surely everyone can relate to: she just wants to belong. She’s trying desperately to understand the multitude of unwritten rules that will enable this and when she finds a place where the rules fit her it’s like a gift. Leila Sales has written a story that captures the wants and needs of every girl, tapping into those hidden feelings and desires we all hold within our hearts. It is insightful and realistic - well, ok, so becoming an overnight teenage DJ sensation might not be terribly realistic for most of us, but the way that Elise and those around her are and how they respond to events is (or feels) realistic. For instance, though suave DJ ‘This Charming Man’ winds his wiley way through the story and into Elise’s head, he does so without taking charge of Elise’s story or choices, a decision on Sales’ part that is excellently down-to-earth no matter how much we might all yearn for a Cinderella ending to our stories.

Whether a sunny summer day or a wintry wet one, This Song Will Save Your Life is a wonderful piece of escapism in which we can all dream about banishing loneliness to the edges of our world, and there isn't a single thing I'd change about it. I’ll definitely be looking out for Sales’ other books.

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