Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales


This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 288 pp.

I’d like to start this post with a bit of a complaint: why, oh, why doesn’t NetGalley tell you when a book can’t be sent to your Kindle?! Like I’m really going to sit in front of my MacBook and read an entire novel! And the handful of those anti-Kindle books that I’ve been approved for are sitting on my dashboard, unread and unjustly skewing my numbers. Tch.

Until This Song Will Save Your Life. I was intrigued enough by this one to download it and give it a shot. And I found myself glued to the laptop for my son’s entire naptime, as well as any other time to myself that I could finagle. It’s not a method of reading that I’d recommend (my kitchen chair is not the most comfortable reading perch), but I was willing to put up with it for the sake of this book. And that’s saying something.

This Song Will Save Your Life is about a girl named Elise who has never been socially gifted. She spends an entire summer doing one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard of: spending hours scouring teen magazines, watching popular television shows, and upgrading her wardrobe in a last-ditch attempt to fit in with the popular kids. She goes about this methodically and determinedly, deriving no joy out of it whatsoever. (She literally takes notes on how to be cool.) And she really believes that it will work. She is utterly convinced that acting just like everyone else, even when it’s not who she really is, will help her make friends and allow her to finally be happy.

I’m sure you see where this is going: Elise’s big plan doesn’t work. In fact, it fails miserably. Just when she thought it was impossible, her life somehow gets worse. But on one of her late-night, thought-settling walks, Elise stumbles upon an underground dance club where, for some inexplicable reason, she seems to fit. She makes friends hesitantly, waiting for them to realize that she isn’t cool enough to hang out with, but these seem to be true friendships. She learns to DJ, realizes that she’s actually quite good at it, and finds a scene where she can settle in and be herself.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and Elise’s story is no exception. Boy problems, curfew issues, and misunderstandings abound. But you’d expect that, right? That’s the thing about this book: it’s predictable and sort of cutesy, but not at all in a bad way. It’s an easy, enjoyable read, one where you can root for the protagonist without reservation and cheer when she succeeds. And it would make a great film.

All in all: Not terribly innovative, but if something isn’t broke, why fix it? Worth reading!