Monday, September 2, 2013

ARC Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life 

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: 5 Stars

Release Date: September 17th, 2013

I’ve written a lot of difficult reviews over the past year, but there has never come a point where I planned to just give up and screw the review because I just couldn’t do it. And then, of course, I read Leila Sales This Song Will Save Your Life and it punched me right in the feels and brought back so many memories and left me a total wreck. I still don’t know how to write this review. I don’t think I can do justice to this book. I just hope that, no matter what, this book gets the attention it deserves. Because, in case you couldn’t already figure out, TSWSYL is life-changing.

Leila Sales latest is a dark novel, but an important one. “How do I fit in?” I think it’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point or the other. Growing up, I didn’t actually have a lot of friends. I moved to New Jersey when I was seven and, suddenly, I just didn’t have anyone. I had a tight circle back in Michigan, but here I was suddenly an oddity. I was too smart. I was too plump. My mom braided my hair in pigtails which was just too weird. I used phrases like, “I was pulling your leg,” which just wasn’t cool. And still, I’d charge forward to school everyday for three years until I found someone – my best friend – the first person to accept me for who I was. I was lucky this was before middle school. I was lucky I realized that it was absolutely okay to be just who I was in life. I was also extremely lucky that the only time I ever considered suicide – last summer – I was too terrified of blood to actually go through with it.

Elise, however, wasn’t that lucky. Elise has grown up knowing she’s different and although she spends an entire summer trying – desperately – to change herself; to learn all the latest bands, to wear all the latest clothes, to do everything right, she still manages to miss the mark. And, suddenly, it’s all too much for her to bear. TSWSYL is the perfect coming-of-age novel, exploring what it means to have no one, be no one in anyone’s eyes, and still discover a group to fit in. Sales, first and foremost, is spot-on with her characterization of Elise. I connected with her from the first page – heck, I spent all my summers teaching myself something or the other, whether it was Hindi or all about paleontology or just about bird-watching - so seeing Elise come to the realization that learning for the sake of learning wasn’t a social plus point, just like I did myself many years ago, was like walking back down memory lane.

And yet, Elise manages to be a teenager of her own nature too. While she has distinct qualities that many readers will connect with, I also love that she’s fiercely independent in her quirks, her love of music, and especially her relationships with her parents. I feel as if Sales hit the nail on the head with Elise’s parents. Ultimately, as much as we all wish our parents could help us find friends and get through life, they can’t. Not always. Thus, Elise’s bonds with her divorced parents are messy and complicated, full of unsaid words and lost emotions. Yet, despite all that, the affection Elise has for them and their understated pride of her accomplishments is felt so palpably through these pages. I don’t think there is anything I love more than an author who is able to convey feelings without explicitly stating them and those waves were exactly what I got with this novel.

TSWSYL really picks up, plot-wise, when Elise discovers an underground club and soon learns to DJ. Already her love for music puts her in an ideal spot to fit in with the crowd, but her personality soon earns her many friends as well. Vicky, the carefree girl Elise first meets at the club, soon becomes a close friend and seeing their friendship evolve – awkwardly, slowly, but surely – was such a heart-wrenching bond to watch unfold. I sometimes like to think there are two types of books in the world: those with horrible, no-one-wants-you-here best friends who push the protagonist toward asshole guys or ditch them during a time of need or completely don’t care and those with the what-would-I-do-without-you girls who stick up for the heroine and slap away the assholes and sometimes do that to the hero too when he’s being a dick. Thankfully, TSWSYL falls into the latter category – for sure.

As far as romance goes, I can’t say this book has a lot. Or, rather, let me re-phrase that – this book doesn’t have a typical romance. And yet, it is much more realistic than any other romance I’ve read. Char, the current DJ at the club Elise discovers, soon teaches her how to DJ and becomes more than just a friend to her. Both Char and their relationship have an almost ethereal quality to it, being difficult and complicated, but coated with a veneer of ease. Char is much older than Elise, which gives their romance a very different angle and dynamic, but also makes their relationship much more rewarding in the future. Elise’s growth because of and due to this love story is what I ultimately loved about it, so added to its originality, Sales manages to stun yet again.

TSWSYL will probably not be as personal an emotional journey as it was for me, but regardless of that fact, it is an incredible novel. It is filled with unforgettable characters, even more stuck-in-your-head music, and wonderful depth. Utterly moving, deeply touching, and poignant, this is not a book that will leave your thoughts for a long time to come. Leila Sales, you are my hero.


  1. This book seriously has one of the best covers I've seen all year. I truly love it! That being said, I'm glad you could really connect with Elise Keertana. I have a feeling I would too. I moved to Canada when I was 13 and I left behind everything I knew in Sri Lanka and that was so tough. There were days when I didn't even want to go to school because I was different. Luckily for me in High School I met friends that were more like me and in University I met people who actually got me as a person. Being a teenager is definitely hard when you feel like an outsider, but once you find things you love- for me it was Classics it gets better. This is one of my favourite reviews from your collection :). There's another book similar to this one called Beat Girl by Jasmina Kallay. I feel like you'd enjoy that one too!

    Wonderful review as always Dear :)

  2. Love that you shared a story of yours in this review. I'm sure I'll love this book too. Don't worry, I think you gave justice to the book by writing this great review of yours. :)

  3. Oh Keertana, I definitely agree with Rachel. I think you did do this book justice with your review. I've heard nothing but great things about it, and after all the 4 and 5 star reviews from friends, and after all the things that I've heard about how powerful and emotional the reading experience is, I really can't wait to get stuck in. I love your review! It was brave of you to share your personal story too. I'm so glad you were impressed by this book. :)

  4. I loved your personal story woven into the review. Oh we all do go through the I don't fit in stage. It bothered me until I realized that EVERYONE felt that way at one time or another. So, we all fit in the I don't fit in category. LOL Still, loved seeing how you connected to the character. I do like the sound of the book and Elsie sound like a fab character. So need to check out this book.

  5. Can I just sit here with my mouth hanging open and call that a comment?

    Because this is such a beautiful review Keertana, and the subtleties here are gorgeous.

    Let me give you a hug. Because you deserve a thousand.

    But anyways, I'm glad this managed to really hit you, Keertana, because I love these kinds of books. The books that just hit you at your core and then leave you thinking "how does the author know me so well?". It's wonderful being able to relate to a book like that, and I actually think this book would be able to affect me very much as well.

    I love how this book showcases a wonderful friendship and romance. They both seem very different, but I can definitely appreciate that. Different is good.

    Gorgeous review, Keertana. <3 I've been trying to hopelessly download this one from NG, but it seems like my attempts are fruitless. I will be getting this one as soon as it comes out, though!

  6. I'm so glad that you were able to connect with this story on such a deep level Keertana. I understand how much of difficult time you could have had so thank you for sharing your story with us and your lovely review as always. You definitely gave this book the credit it deserved!

  7. Oh, Keertana, what a beautiful review. Like you, I found such an enormous, understated power in this book, and I definitely think that Elise will resonate for many a YA reader. I think that it's incredible how so many people can draw so many different things from this book. That's power. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Um, FYI did the book justice with this review:)

    Wow--what a gorgeous, heartfelt review! I think this book, more then any other I have read lately, has something about it that truly, truly resonates with readers. For me it was the music--for others, like you, it's Elise's loneliness and feelings of not belonging. I wonder if Leila Sales knows just how much this book has touched readers? I hope so.

    I love what you said about Elise's parents, her relationship with Char, and especially her friendship with Vicky who is THE BESTEST EVER.

    And this:

    "I sometimes like to think there are two types of books in the world: those with horrible, no-one-wants-you-here best friends who push the protagonist toward asshole guys or ditch them during a time of need or completely don’t care and those with the what-would-I-do-without-you girls who stick up for the heroine and slap away the assholes and sometimes do that to the hero too when he’s being a dick. Thankfully, TSWSYL falls into the latter category – for sure."

    Yes. You nailed it Keertana. Perfectly.

    I love this review! I'm so glad you read this book and felt uplifted by it-I did too:)

  9. I can't read this until I read the book for myself! I fear that others' thoughts will cloud my own. BUT so many people have connected deeply to this story, and I hope that I do too. I'm glad it was life-changing for you. That means a lot to hear.

  10. KEERTANA. How can you ever say that you don't do books justice when writing their review? Because you write the most honest, gorgeous, and helpful reviews out there.

    The fact that you were able to relate to this book so much just makes me SO happy. I believe it when you say that this book is a life-changer. I feel like Elise is so brutally real without it being obvious (LOVE it too when authors are subtle, but true!). And her quirks with music and all sounds very endearing. I'm glad there wasn't a typical romance, it sounds neat!

    This review though, Keertana. ONE OF MY FAVS FROM YOU. <3 I'm picking this one up reaaaal soon. Phenomenal review, dear. :)

  11. Love, love love this review! It's down right beautiful. You just made me want to pick this book up RIGHT NOW. It will not be sitting on my wall for much longer, thanks to this review!



  12. Aw I really appreciate reading about how well you can relate to this story, Keertana! I love being able to forge deep personal connections with the characters and books I read, although they're not always the easiest thing to do. I'm glad that this book was able to speak to you on such a personal level. It's truly magical when that happens.
    I'll admit that I wasn't really sure whether I'd enjoy reading this book. But glowing review after glowing review has forced me to reconsider. And your review has really made me realize that, yes, I do need to give this a chance. Even if it doesn't feel as personal for me as it was for you, this does sound like a book well worth reading.

  13. Oh man, I so appreciate how much heart you put into this review! The cover of this book had previously caught my eye, but this is one of the first reviews that has made me desperately want to pick this one up as soon as possible. I love when someone connects so personally to a book - and then shares that in a review. I especially loved what you said about the best friend in this book, since I often get frustrated with many best friend characters in YA. I'm really excited to hear there is a good one in this book!

  14. Okay, I desperately need to acquire this book - it sounds exactly like something I would love. Your review is beautiful. Also, the friendship aspect of the novel sounds refreshing. While I do enjoy a nuanced examination of toxic, unbalanced friendships, it's also good to see portrayals of strong, healthy friendships - because they definitely exist and deserve to be explored as well.

  15. Okay, I totally have to read this book. I've only heard good things about it and I'm super excited to try it out. Great review!

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books


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