Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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 wanted to love this book, I really did – I just couldn’t. I couldn’t even force myself to the end, where even critics of this book seemed to be happy with the story. I read over a third of the book, but I couldn’t push myself to finish it, even though it’s short.
From the very beginning, I was kind of iffy about this book. I had been quite excited for it after reading a lot of raving reviews, but then I saw a few less-than-impressed reviews sprinkled in and it made me slightly wary. Then I started reading it, and I got even more wary, especially with the first chapter ended with this:
You think it’s so easy to change yourself, but it’s impossible.
So I decided on the next logical step: to kill myself. (page 21)
This put my guard up right away. It just seemed like a really blasé approach to suicide. It was only the first chapter, so I wasn’t prepared to write off the whole book, but it definitely made me nervous, and the next chapter, involving the suicide attempt, didn’t make me feel better at all. The whole tone of it was very blasé again, like it was just something Elise was doing for kicks and giggles. And she kept saying things like “Oh, you can’t judge me for what I’m doing, because this is something that’s different for everyone” and the like, and it just seemed like she was covering her bases so that you couldn’t judge her at all, in a good or bad way.
I kept reading, though, even as I started to dislike Elise more and more. I did feel bad for her because of all the bullying, but it was hard for feel sorry for the person behind all the judgements and bad attitude.
Still, I almost made it halfway through the book. I was trying to finish it because I had read critical reviews that still praised the ending, but apparently I just wasn’t meant to get that far. This was the paragraph, about a teacher of Elise’s, that stopped me for good:
This woman. This horrifying woman. With her muted sweaters and her sensible heels. All those times I had eaten lunch in her classroom, watching videos of Mandelbrot sets on her computer, she was secretly, insidiously, monitoring me. (page 112 – emphasis mine)
Before I say anything, here’s a little context to the scene. Elise spent the previous night out DJing and came back home sometime after midnight to stay up until the sun rose practicing DJing, so she barely got any sleep. With the DJing and such, she’s been getting a lot less sleep lately, and she’s apparently been a lot quieter than normal. She then goes on to complain about all the other people who should be getting attention, but certainly not her.
I’m sorry, but I can’t take this. I could barely handle the way Elise griped about her caring parents (yes, over half a year after your suicide attempt, they are still worried about you) and a girl who had saved her (yes, calling 911 because you’re bleeding out is so cruel and such a backstabbing thing to do, it’s not like she possibly saved your life or anything), but this was the last straw for me.
I’m currently an Education major in school. One of the things we cover in our introductory education classes is the fact that you need to report child abuse. If you think a student might be suffering from abuse at home and you don’t say anything, you can get in serious trouble. Students can be very vulnerable, and suicide and self harm are also very real possiblities that you, as a teacher, need to look out for. So, yes, there is a very good chance that your teacher is keeping an eye on you and is worried about the girl who attempted suicide less than a year ago. She is concerned about you, and all you can do is put her down and act like she’s spying on you just because she freaking pays attention.
At this point, I didn’t care if the story was freaking amazing after that point, I was just done. I couldn’t deal with Elise’s attitude, and while I am so very, very sorry that things like this happen to people, I can’t feel that sorry for a girl who doesn’t seem to realize how privileged she is and who judges the few people who do treat her well. I’m sure this is an important story that needs to be told, but it’s apparently doesn’t need to be told to me.