This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

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This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: This is one that really, really needs a sixth star. The best of an outstanding year for YA contemporary novels, it's an emotional, sometimes brutal, but ultimately hopeful read with an amazing voice. An absolute must read. Leila Sales popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447252832

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Elise is a fragile girl who's never felt like she fitted in anywhere. Shuttled between her divorced parents, she's desperate to be popular at school but can't work out how. Then a chance event leads to her DJ'ing in Start, a hot underground nightclub and her life suddenly improves dramatically - but can she really leave behind her old self, or are the bullies who make her feel like there's nothing worthwhile about her life right all along?

I picked this up on another reviewer's recommendation and read it all in one train journey. It's gripping from the very first chapter, which ends with Elise making a horrific decision which feels all too real because of the skill with which Sales shows us her issues. Demonstrating how casual day to day nastiness can be so draining on a person and just how much damage a teenager's peers can do, it's got a strong anti-bullying message which never feels preachy. It's brutal at times - if anything, the stunning prose and Elise's incredible voice make it even harder-hitting.

(On the subject of that voice; I'd bookmarked on the Kindle app particularly good lines. When reading on Kindle, I do this for perhaps one or two lines per book, five or six for a really good one. I've just checked, and this one has sixty-eight. I'd share them with you, but many are venturing too close to spoiler territory, and how do you pick just one or two out of sixty-eight?)

So, there are parts which came close to completely destroying me, and did bring me to tears in the end - possibly a first on public transport; The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson would have got me there but with ten minutes to go of a journey I put that one down so I could burst into tears back at home. I had three quarters of an hour left of my train ride when I could feel that I was about to cry here, and just couldn't bring myself to leave off reading for that long.

However it's also hopeful, and it does an incredible job of showing the value of true friendship, as Elise begins to meet people she does feel comfortable with, both in and out of Start. In addition to the tears at the saddest parts, there were plenty of smiles as Elise really blossomed into a happier character through her DJ'ing. Oh, and it gets bonus marks for the outstanding taste in music Sales displays through the songs used in the book.

Not that a book like this - which practically screams six stars on a five star rating scale - really needs bonus marks for musical taste. The voice, the prose, the plot, an amazing ending, and a strong supporting cast (including parents who actually clearly care about their daughter and don't act like complete idiots) mean that it's one of the best teen novels of the year so far.

My other favourite YA contemporary novels of the year are You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett, another stunning book which involves bullying and music, and the hilarious Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper.

This review was kindly given to us by the ever-generous Ya Yeah Yeah

Bookinterviews.jpg Leila Sales was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales at


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Nigethan said:

Great review and great recommendation! I never thought a book would make me feel quite as intensely as The Sky is Everywhere did, but Elise's story is such a stunningly beautiful one filled with both incredibly sad and wonderfully uplifting moments all told through a voice that is so thoughtful and incredibly sincere that it never felt like I was merely just reading words on a page.

And I totally agree with you about the quality taste of music. So many of my favourite novels have music as a key component: the aforementioned, The Sky is Everywhere, You Don't Know Me, Gayle Foreman's If I Stay, and Kevin Brooks' Naked, to name a few, but This Song Will Save Your Life, for me, tops them all in the music department.

This really is a six star book!