Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.
Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, This Song Will Save Your Life is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
I believe that a person’s taste in music tells you a lot about them. In some cases, it tells you everything you need to know.
WARNING: POSSIBLE RANT AHEAD
When it comes to book, I usually classify them in three broad categories: a bad plot with good characters, a good plot with good characters, and a good plot with bad characters. This Song Will Save Your Life falls in the last category.
I’m down for a book that’s about growth and finding yourself and most of all being comfortable with yourself and exactly who you are. I love books where reality is so sharp and brutal, the character being so easy to relate and sympathize with.
But in a book about bullying, it’s always a good idea for the reader to sympathize with the protagonist. How are they going to care otherwise? This, my friend, is where This Song Will Save Your Life went wrong. Very, very, wrong.
Let’s start with that opening quote. To an extent, I agree that you could learn a thing or two about the person from their taste in music. Like how you can tell someone’s generally a happy, uplifting person if his songs are all upbeat and light. I have no problem with that statement. Nothing at all.
Until I read this:
The popular music wasn’t interesting-bad, but it was bad-bad. Auto-Tuned vocalists who couldn’t really sing; offensively simplistic instrumentation; grating melodies. Like they thought we were stupid.
What? Last time I checked, just because someone’s into pop music doesn’t mean they’re stupid. I’m not pop’s biggest fan, I’ll admit – but honestly.
Now, in the beginning of the book, Elise wants to be popular. She wants to be liked by everyone, be in the circle instead of standing outside in the cold. I get that. I resonate with that. I’m the girl at school who knows she has many groups to sit at lunch, but doesn’t truly fit in with anyone. I understand that yearning, that want to be included. Part of something. But then she repeatedly mentions that everyone in her school are idiots, and I have to wonder: why would you want to be friends with idiots that you clearly look down upon? If you look down on them so much, clearly marking yourself superior, why bother to be friends with them at all?
Elise does end up having some “friends” in school – I put friends in quotes because her offensive attitude makes me question that.
You may wonder how I managed to make these friends. Well, I will tell you: making friends is actually not that hard when you drop every single one of your standards
See what I mean by her superior attitude? If I was as alone as she says she is, I wouldn’t think so little of my friends since clearly no one likes her. I’d be a bit thankful, really.
Speaking of thankful:
I bet I do seem exhausted, Ms. Wu. I bet I do seem less engaged. I was up all night, doing something that I really love, and I’m sorry, but I just didn’t reserve enough energy to fully participate in this miserable, mandatory little exercise in public education.
Pardon my french in the next couple paragraphs, but she’s really pissing me off at this point. I can feel the anger all over again.
Hold it right there. Last time I checked, I thought you wanted attention? Now you have it. So shut the f*ck up. The teachers don’t come to school to deal with an attitude like that. Elise didn’t say that quote out loud, but I wish she did so the teacher can give her a nice grounding back into reality.
I think one of the biggest issues I had with Elise is her want for attention. Earlier in the book (some may think this is a spoiler, but really it happens to early to be considered as such) Elise attempts to kill herself. Only she doesn’t go through with it. But what does she do? She calls Amelia (a girl in her school) to tell her about it.
Sorry, no. Just no. I was so frustrated with Elise that I had to take a breather for a moment.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d call someone and tell them, “hey, I was cutting myself and thinking about committing suicide,” if I didn’t want them to call the ambulance. Because of course that’s what any sane person would do. They’d call the f*cking ambulance because what the hell are they supposed to do? Nod and say, “that’s great!?”
And get this: later, when Amelia asks Elise why she seems mad at her, Elise said she betrayed her. Then Elise has the nerve to believe she did nothing wrong when she notices Amelia shying away from her and being upset.
I look at her sharply, wondering if this was a reference to the time I cut myself. But how could it be? Ms. Wu didn’t know about that. Nobody at school knew, except for Amelia. Amelia, who now thought I had done something to hurt her, apparently. When all I had ever wanted was for her to just be my friend.
Gee. Nothing says friendship by calling them a traitor.
And Elise, here’s a tip: when you make friends, try going up there and actually talking to them, hmm? I’m pretty antisocial myself but I actually talk to people and when I don’t, I don’t expect them to be my friends.
I felt inklings of sympathy for Elise at moments, because she still did suffer from bullying and it’s never nice to read about that, but it just got squashed down by something she did or said, and I just started disliking her more and more.
This entire review turned out to be a bit of a rant, and I’m sorry about that. To be honest, I’m not sure why I continued this book. Maybe because I saw all those glowing reviews and wanted to believe I could find a trace of it. Sadly, I didn’t.
Maybe you’ll like this book. Maybe you won’t. If you did, please don’t yell at me. It’s not good for your health. And remember: I have my opinion, you have yours. Nothing wrong with that. And if I offended anyone (since I know there are so many people who relate to it), I am truly sorry. Really, I am.