Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
This will be an interesting book review. Let me give you a little context.
One week before I read This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, I stumbled across this ad at Buzzfeed:
Basically, it launched an interesting discussion about sexism in the DJ community. At the same time, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is really gaining in popularity. Coincidentally, Tegan and Sara spun some records just days later on the America’s Got Talent finale. The Tween made me stop as we were flipping channels because it turns out she likes their song I Don’t Care.
Fast forward to a week later, when I sat down and read This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. I had no idea what it was about, although music was obviously involved.
Ellie has not been able to find her tribe, she is a lost and lonely warrior in a world that just doesn’t get her. One night she goes for a walk and finds herself invited into a club where a boy spins records, people dance, and for the first time ever she thinks she may have found a place where she doesn’t have to try so hard to be happy. Soon she herself is invited to DJ, which it turns out she loves with a fierce, fiery passion. Finally, she is home. The only problem is that this life involves a lot of sneaking out late at night, which makes school hard the next morning. But soon Ellie is making friends, falling in love(ish) and really becoming the person she feels she is meant to be.
Let me start with this: I loved this book. I didn’t think I would. In fact, in the beginning I didn’t like the introduction to our character and I almost put it down. But I am a completionist, I am glad that I did. Because this is genuinely a good book about finding your passion and yourself.
There are some major bumps along the way. As Ellie starts a relationship with DJ Char, she alienates one of her first new friends. She does an incredibly horrific thing to her precocious younger sister in what she believes is an attempt to protect her from the life that she has led; it is seriously devastating. She lies, she sneaks around, and she hurts the family that truly loves her. But she also ultimately finds support and acceptance, even from the very people she hurts.
Speaking of family, there are some very real and present parents here. They are divorced, but they are both actively engaged, loving parents. I appreciated this positive depiction and their part in the book.
Consent Watch: There is a very interesting scene in the night club where one character is blitzed out of her mind drunk. Ellie and her friends stand nearby and when they see two men holding their drunken friend against the wall and “making out” with her, they intervene. One of the boys says the friend is enjoying herself, and Ellie and her friends explicitly state that she can’t enjoy it because she is too drunk to be able to consent. I appreciated this important scene and the way in which it was handled.
The best part of the book, however, is definitely seeing Ellie’s passion ignited and how it transforms her. There is sex, drinking, language and a suicide attempt in this title, so it is definitely for mature teens. However, it is also a touching yet simple story about one girl discovering her passion and allowing herself to open up to the world through it. I also love that this book portrays a girl engaged in a nontraditional activity, DJing. It was interesting to read this book about how DJing had literally saved this girls life and think that there are those in the industry who would like to deny girls like her this opportunity because of their sexist attitudes. Thankfully, Sales has given us a positive example in this book to help fight these cultural attitudes. Pair this with the movie Pitch Perfect or other music loving books like Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. 3.5 out of 5 stars, definitely recommended.
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. September, 2013 by FSG. ISBN: 978-0-374-35138-0.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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