Thursday, May 28, 2015

This Song Will Save Your Life

Does it sound weird and dumb, to say you remember falling in love with music? Because I do. I remember being 13 and discovering all these new bands, finally understanding why my peers were constantly wearing headphones. I remember connecting suddenly with a song, and thinking wow. I still have those moments, when I listen to a song for the first time, or the thousandth, and it hits me all over again.

I think music is one of the most amazing things humans have ever come up with.  Music makes us want to dance and cry, sometimes all within the space of one song. You can turn the sound up, and be drowned by a song. Maybe it's hearing someone else sing, hearing their voice, saying the same things we think or feel that makes music special. Whatever it is, music connects us in a unique way, it brings us together.

Because I feel so strongly about music, I always look forward to books that promise a strong theme of music throughout. This Song Will Save Your Life was one such book.

It was a ridiculous question. Did I love Char? Did I feel about Char the same way I feel about the Beatles, string instruments in pop songs, the way Little Anthony sang high notes, the way Jerry Lee Lewis played piano?

To compare loving a boy to loving music? This Song Will Save Your Life will have to go on my favourites shelf for many reasons. It's not often you stumble over a book that speaks you, as if it was written for you. But as I was reading, it felt like Elsie, the main character, was half me, and when you are reading a book, feeling that that leaves you stunned.

She made awesome notes like:

That's the problem with life. You never get enough time to stare at your ceiling and try to figure out what's going on.


You can't tell me my feelings are overwrought or absurd. You don't know. They are my feelings.

I get this. I get that sometimes you just a need a few hours to stare the ceiling, but life never really provides the time. I understand people telling you what you feel is wrong or dumb. When you aren't in the same situation (and even when you are), you can't tell people what to feel or not feel.

This Song Will Save Your Life follows Elsie, an almost 16 year old who loves music, and takes on big projects. As the books opens, she tells us that her latest project was to make herself popular. Only, it turns out that changing they way you look doesn't make you popular, and it made Elsie miserable. It all becomes to much so she decides to kill herself. She doesn't want to make a mess, or cause to much of a fuss, and her preparation takes her a while, as a result she only 'practises' her suicide, by cutting.

Elsie then rings one of the girls from her school and tells she cut herself. It got Elsie the attention from the girl she wanted, but not the right sort of attention.

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.

We then move forward in time, and we find Elsie's parents have been keeping a close eye on her, but Elsie has been taking long walks during the night when she can't sleep. It's during one of these walks that two girls mistake her for someone looking for a club, Start. They get her in, and Elsie is attracted to DJ-ing and they way the music works. In true Elsie fashion, she decides to master it, returing each week.

I loved watching Elsie learning and growing. Books about character growth are something I can never pass over, and I'm definitely glad I didn't pass over This Song Will Save Your Life. I've put some of the things I liked into a list:

  • Elsie has been the butt of jokes all her life, she doesn't really have any friends. Until I started hanging out with the group I hang out with now, this was me. I was always the 'weird' kid. 
  • Everyone has something that is 'theirs'. For Elsie, this turns out to be DJ-ing. If, like me, you haven't found your thing, it's easy to relate to Elsie's journey. 
  • Elsie spent her summer trying to change herself. And I think we all kind of do. We change physically and mentally and come back to school  different, and sort of worried. 
  • Elsie's parents are alive and functioning. To often I feel like YA paints parents as missing or useless. Not so in Elsie's case- her family felt very real. 
  • Real romance! And not very much, either. Elsie ends up 'with' Char, the DJ at Start. Their romance seems down to earth and disconnected- it turns out Elsie doesn't really feel anything for him at all.    
  • Elsie didn't like being judged, but made her own judgements about people. Sound like anyone you know? I know I'm like that. It made her look like a hypocrite, but at the same time, it made her very real. 

Popularity rewards the uninteresting.

Not to say that I think people who are popular are always shallow, but the thing is, at least from what I see in the 'popular' people in my high school, to be popular, you must conform. This means you like certain things, and you speak a certain way. To follow the crowd and parrot other's is uninteresting.

The truth is, This Song Will Save Your Life is not about anything pretty, or anything very happy and romantic. It's about what high school can be like, it's about being lonely and finding who you are. It's about real life.  

Have you read This Song Will Save Your Life? What did you think? Do you have anything to add? Disagree with me? On your TBR?

Opal is going to see her Grandparents for Queen's Birthday weekend. It's about 6 hours travel to get there, so Opal gets to leave school early tomorrow. This means missing English, which Opal isn't sorry about in the least. 


  1. Mmmmm, was music invented by humans, or discovered by humans? Some have suggested that music existed in heaven before the creation, as a form of worship to God, and the book of Revelation had the saints singing holy holy holy is the Lord God almighty. And long before today's music the palms had David singing and worshiping using music. 😃

  2. Mmm, I've heard of this book here and there, but it's not really my fav genre and I don't suppose I'll be adding it to my list. But it seems that it resonates a lot of other teens, and the quotes are simple but evoke beautiful images. Still, I can't help but shake the feeling that the unpopular-girl-in-school trope has been a little hackneyed over the years -- underdogs are the best, but I want to read about how the powerful are powerless after all.

    1. :)
      The unpopular-girl-in-school is defiantly overused, but it didn't really feel like that was what This Song Will Save Your Life is about.

  3. This book sounds very much interesting. Music has been one of the things that has spoken to me and I have made many friends because of it. I'm kind of iffy on reading this book because books talking about cutting/suicide make me a little uneasy, but when I'm probably a bit more older, about several months more, and think I could handle it, maybe I will. I do agree with Alyssa though, about the unpopular-to-popular idea.

    xoxo Morning

    1. I know that cutting/suicide are off putting for many people. I understand that there is a lot of emotion and other things that go on about it, but I hope you do get to enjoy This Song Will Save Your Life one day :)

  4. Beautiful review, Opal. This was really gorgeously done.
    I've never read much about this book before- no synopsis or reviews!- and though you describe it perfectly (I was just thinking, before I read you wrote the same, that it just sounded like a book that was real, more than anything else) I'm not sure I think it would be something I'd enjoy. Books where the characters are dealing with self harm affect me in a way I don't like, so I try to stick away from them, and though I can understand her and her actions when you write about it, I don't know if I and Elsie would get along particularly well.
    Oh well, though. I'm glad you found that book that spoke to you. Those are so often the absolute best.x

    1. Thank you :)
      Not all books are for everyone, and when self harm is involved I know it can be something many people stay away from :)

  5. I haven't heard of this book, but I'm glad it could resonate with you! Your description definitely reminds me of me during my sophomore and junior years, feeling wanderish and weird and stuff. Even the beginning of my senior year! I also like that the romance isn't insta-lovey, just because that's way overdone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Opal!

  6. agreed. this book was beautiful. definitely one of my favourites.
    though, her name is elise not elsie :O
    i loved your interpretation of the book.
    "popularity reward the uninteresting" this is the truth.