Dance to the Beat of Your Own Drum

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Release Date: September 2013
Publisher: Macmillan | Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 288 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski's strong suit. All throughout her life, she's been the butt of every joke and the outside 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.

Thoughts on This Song Will Save Your Life
I bought This Song Will Save Your Life on the same day that I purchased Past Perfect - deciding to jump right on the Leila Sales bandwagon. The buzz had been building for this recent release, but I couldn't stop myself from snagging the other book, too, because of it was set in a historical reenactment village. I read Past Perfect first, and I absolutely fell in love the book and characters. It was funny, charming and just my kind of read.

Despite seeing a million review for This Song Will Save Your Life around the blogosphere, I had read very little about this book. So, I went into expecting something along the lines of Past Perfect. Imagine my surprise when it opened with a (sort of) suicide attempt in the very first chapter. Elise Dembowski doesn't fit in, and she's basically friendless. The one thing Elise is good at? Throwing herself into a project with a fevered intensity and learning a new skill in the process. She decides to spend the summer learning how to be popular, but reading magazines and buying new clothes will only get you so far.

It made my stomach psychically hurt to read about Elise being rejected by her classmates. She has such low self-esteem, and it's painful to be inside her head at times. I found Elise's voice so interesting for its complete nonchalance in describing her social ostracism. And then something changes. Elise discovers a secret, underground nightclub called START, and her whole world opens up. No one knows her here. She can be someone different - or at the very least break out of the role that she's been stuck in at school.

I found so much to enjoy about Elise's time at START. It starts with her discovering DJing. She's always loved music, but she realizes for the first time that she can use that passion for something that brings joy to others. She watches Char, START's Thursday night DJ, command a crowd and immediately wants to throw herself into learning how to DJ. One small taste of that power has Elise hooked. I really loved this aspect of Elise's personality because my blog name comes from the fact that I'll randomly get so obsessed with something that I want to do, make, buy, learn, etc. Like Elise, I can't stop myself from pursuing a project that catches my fancy.

With DJing, Elise's passion actually brings her closer to people. She's always been so alienated, but START introduces to new friends and a possible love interest. Elise will do anything to keep this world a secret from the people who know her in "real life" - to protect it from outsiders who won't understand this new side of her. But I loved reading about what happens when Elise's fears finally come true...

I like music, but it's not my passion. Honestly, it's not what drew me to this book or helped me connect to it. In many ways, I connected more to Past Perfect than this book. However, I still really appreciated Elise's growth as a character and struggle with her insecurity. This Song Will Save Your Life was a lot darker than I expected, but it had a charming, authentic heroine in search of her identity.

There's bullying, rejection and all the pain that's associated... but there's also such passion and joy in Elise discovering her passion and place in her world. In the process, she's able to strengthen her relationship with her parents and make new friends who are cheering her on and rooting for her to succeed. In the end, I loved Past Perfect just a bit more, but I'm definitely a huge fan of Leila Sales now!

So Quotable
"Music wasn't history class; I didn't need to memorize a thousand dates and names. I just cared a lot about music. You'd think this might make me cool, since music is supposedly cool, but it doesn't work like that. It turns out that caring a lot about anything is, by definition, uncool, and it doesn't matter if that thing is music or Star Wars or oil refineries."


  1. Oh, I'm so happy to see you've finally had an opportunity to read this book, Hannah! I fell in love with it when I read it last year and have been eager to hear your thoughts every since :)

    Like you, I was rather surprised by the tone and depth of This Song Will Save Your Life, although for me this was a pleasant surprise. While I had been expecting little more than a light-hearted story about a teenage DJ, particularly based on the cover design, I think we were given so much more instead. I picked up a copy of Past Perfect immediately after finishing This Song Will Save Your Life because I was so enamoured with Sales' work. While I haven't had the chance to read it yet, I'm now really excited to begin it, particularly based on your comments in this review. No matter which I end up preferring, I think there's certainly something special about Sales' novels and I can't wait to see what she decides to write about next :D I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one too, Hannah!

  2. I enjoyed This Song Will Save Your Life when I read it last year! It was definitely much darker than I expected it to be, but it still worked for me. I could relate to Elise's struggles, particularly when it came to finding acceptance (even from herself). I loved seeing her blossom gradually after finding START and learning to DJ, and I loved seeing her form strong relationships with other people too. So glad you enjoyed this! (And I'm now looking forward to reading Past Perfect too, thanks to you!)

  3. Like you, I didn't fully connect to the musical part of this book. Same goes for the bullying aspect, but that didn't mean that it didn't really move me. I wasn't expecting this book to be as dark, but I think it's a great addition to the YA genre. What I especially liked was the ending, and the fact that the "romance" took a step back at the end. I really want to read Past Perfect now!

  4. You just reminded me of how many lines I liked from this book and how I should probably own a copy. I didn't have much luck with Sales's other book, Mostly Good Girls, but this one was just so so so hard to put down. I was completely ignoring James for awhile. (A good sign.) I didn't connect to the music much either but I did (like you) get really devoting time and the excitement to succeed in that one thing, for sure. Heartbreaking but really riveting read for sure.

  5. I have this book but I got it around the time when it was being so hyped up and I wanted to wait a while before I read it. I absolutely LOVE the cover for it and am excited to read it one day whenever I pull it off the shelf. I also want to read Past Perfect - it has such a cute cover with the green coat (I think that's the one) and it sounds so cute too. I watched an interview on video with this author once and she won me over with how precious she was (I'm not creepy) so I definitely want to read her stuff. I just want to do it and not be affected by the hype machine! (: I think it sounds like one I would like.

  6. A basic drum equipment includes bottom toms, some sort of striped bass drum, cymbals, woodblocks, tambourines, cowbells, and electronic digital drum protections.


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