You’ve probably heard the term “black sheep” on some blogs or Goodreads – you know, that one person or one of the few who didn’t like the book/series that everyone else seems to praise on a weekly basis. We probably all have at least one book that fits this category, and that’s what this feature is for – to look at the popular books or series that I didn’t love in an attempt to figure out why. Why the name then, you ask (and if you didn’t, who cares – you’re going to hear it anyway!)? Well, I wanted to come up with a name that’s slightly different, plus I couldn’t find a cute picture of a sheep, and I have a black cat of my own, so why not?
This Song Will Save Your Life
When this book came out last year (it was last year, right? Or was it simply early this year? Either way, it’s been a little while at this point), there was a ton of hype surrounding it. It was a book about a misfit-type protagonist, someone who has no friends at school and only learns to accept herself and connect to other people after she discovers an underground club scene and her extreme love of DJing and music. This sounds like something I would really love, or at the very least like, especially since so many other people loved it. Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the protagonist, I should feel sympathetic toward her for all she’s gone through and connect with her passion for something, right?
So Why No Love?
There were so many reasons that this book just didn’t work for me, but almost all of them seem personal to me and no one else – or at least few other people.
1. A Main Character I Just Couldn’t Sympathize With I just could not sympathize with the main character, which is a major problem when the protagonist is friendless and generally unhappy. Well, I suppose I felt sorry for her, but only because I’m the type of person who feels sorry for basically everyone, even people who really don’t need it. And, unfortunately for me, I just didn’t think that Elise deserved my pity. She could be judgmental of people, including the few who were actually nice to her, and I had trouble hoping that she would find her niche when she couldn’t give other people any chance to connect with her.
2. The Way Suicide Was Handled At the very beginning of the book, Elise tries to commit suicide. She was terribly blasé about the whole thing, and then she either changed her mind or swore that she didn’t actually want to kill herself, I can’t remember for sure, and it just seemed like the topic of suicide should have been handled more delicately. Of course, suicide is luckily a subject that I don’t have a lot of personal experience with, so obviously I’m not an expert on the subject and how it should be handled.
3. The Hype It was the hype that got me interested in this book in the first place, but the more praise I heard, the more wary I got of the whole thing. When I started reading it and just wasn’t getting into it, the hype felt like it was putting even more pressure on me – after all, if so many other book bloggers felt such a personal connection with this book and Elise, what was wrong with me that I didn’t feel the same way? That was basically how I felt in the half or so that I read of this book, and that definitely didn’t help my experience with it.
4. Page 112 Now, this page might be different in the paperback edition, but when I read the hardcover, one paragraph made me put the whole thing down 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)
This is after Elise tried to commit suicide, after she constantly complained about people actually caring about her and being worried because of the suicide attempt; she’s been quiet and withdrawn because she’s begun DJing and still doesn’t really have any friends. So, when her teacher notices this, she obviously says something – because it’s her freaking job and she could lose it if she didn’t. If she ignored Elise simply because she didn’t see obvious cutting or threats of suicide, she could get in so much trouble. You see something that you think is wrong, you report it – otherwise, you could get in a lot of trouble. I’m trying to become a teacher, and even though I’ve know switched to early childhood rather than dealing with high schoolers, this is really important for all teachers and really any adults who interact with children on a regular basis to know. I know, I was probably taking things too personally, but this paragraph just disgusted me because of my personal connection, and there was no way I could go on afterward.
So Why Bother?
The point of this new feature isn’t to turn the few who haven’t read and loved these books against them, despite how much it might seem like it. No, it’s to figure out – for myself and anyone else who happens to care – why these weren’t the books for me. You shouldn’t just take my word for it since there are plenty of people who love this book and series. These are just a few reviews of This Song Will Save Your Life that you should check out before deciding whether these are the books for you – or you can just jump into them yourself and see!
Fellow Dark-Hued Cats
There aren’t really a lot of people who felt the same about this book as me, unfortunately – it always sucks being the black sheep/cat/whatever animal floats your boat.