Lynn: I have struggled to figure out how to begin a post on This Song Will Save Your Life (Farrar 2013) because there is so much that I enjoyed about it: the unusual setting, the instantly engaging voice of the main character, the dialogue, the multi-faceted characters, the music. I love them all but I decided the best thing to begin with is a quote.
“I had always thought that if I did something extraordinary enough, then people would like me. But that wasn’t true. You will drive everyone away by being extraordinary…The world embraces ordinary. The world will never embrace you.”
It is this quote, I think, that goes to the heart of what I love most about this book. Elise IS precocious. She IS very smart and capable of great focus. But Elise is also a girl who desperately wants to belong and to have friends and yet she has always been the odd girl out. In fact, after a “practice” suicide attempt, she is even more on the outside of the social life at her high school especially after someone begins posting a blog using her name. What moves this book from an ordinary problem novel to extraordinary (a good thing in my estimation) is Elise’s straight-from-the-brain dialogue. Snarky and detached, Elise observes herself, her actions and those around her with a hilarious accuracy. Yet just beneath the surface, we glimpse the raw misery that is Elise’s world.
Elise’s parents are divorced, her mother has a new family and Elise often slips out late at night and wanders the city for hours. One night she chances on an underground dance club and a whole new world opens up for her. She makes friends, meets a guy and discovers an exceptional new talent – being a D.J. Elise can sense the mood of the room and knows just what music to play next and before she knows it she has a regular guest gig with the gorgeous Charm guiding her learning in several ways. For the first time in her life, Elise feels as if she belongs and it is heady stuff. Then the owner of the club offers Elise her own slot on the prized Friday night time. Charm is furious, Elise’s midnight excursions are discovered by her parents and Elise’s conviction that “extraordinary” is never a good thing causes her to do something that hurts her family deeply.
The indie music scene is fascinating and music-loving teens will understand the play lists far better than I do, although there are some oldies there too. The characters are well developed and very believable, including most of the adults. It is Elise and her wonderfully authentic voice that really carried this story for me. I knew this character, I’ve had many Elise’s come and go through my library. Those kids who really are extraordinary and who just don’t fit with the high school crowd. We all know these kids and we know that most of them will find their place as young adults, their gifts and abilities will serve them well in time but those middle and high school years are tough to survive. This is a book for those kids, and, hopefully will give the others something to think about too.