Rating: 4.5 Stars
Synopsis via 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 outsider 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.
Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.
So there is a large, fat frog in my throat right now.
You want to know why? Well, I’ll tell you fellow avid readers, it’s because I was thrown and tossed back to my high school and middle school and every school year.
Warning: RANT COMING, RANT COMING . . .
I knew what I was getting myself into when I started reading this book. All the Goodreads (or the ones I read at least) talked about how they were also thrown back into their painful younger days and how the things Elise do are practically exact to what they might have done.
And when I read those comments, I thought, “Okay. I’ve read that before. But I doubt it.” Because I’ve read very, very few books that really do that to me.
But this one did it. It really did.
I literally had to put the book down after the second chapter. Not because it was dull or boring or the writing was horrible (it’s fantastic), but because my hands were shaking and the frog in my throat was getting bigger and bigger and bigger . . . and I needed a break.
So here’s a little story, because I think it pertains to this post. I grew up in a military family, so this basically meant that I was moving from state to state and school to school, at the latest, every two years. But I didn’t mind it, I really didn’t. Because every time we moved, it was a new school. No one knew me. And while, yes, that can suck because that means you never really have any great friends because you know you’re going to lose them in a year or so, and trying to make friends has never been my strong suit, just like Elise, I was okay with that. Because I felt that the universe had dealt me an okay card in the sense that I never had to deal with continuing bullying, I never had the same group of kids harass me all through middle school and high school, no. Instead, I got different kids.
Now, I don’t want this to sound like some teen angst post, because it’s really not. My childhood and school years were by no means unbearable, but they were hard, like I’m sure most of the rest of humanity. I wouldn’t go back and change them if I could, because 1.) they could have been much, much worst and 2.) I feel stranger having gone through what I did.
The reason I had trouble with the second or so chapter of this novel was because there’s this part with Elise, and how she tries to make friends by sitting at a lunch table with these girls, and everything’s going okay, you know, they’re not harassing her or anything. They’re not being overly nice either, but it’s not like in those movies where she sits down and everyone, as if on cue, gets up and leaves her sitting there all by herself. No, it’s fine, until the end of lunch comes around. And everyone decides that it’s going to be Elise who cleans up everyone’s trash.
And I couldn’t breathe.
Because that is exactly what happened to me my freshman year of high school. It was a new school – nothing new to me – and I made friends with this group of sophomores. I sat with them everyday at lunch, and gosh darn it, I was just so happy that they were letting me sit with them!
And then one day – I don’t remember if it was the first day I sat with them or not, but it was pretty close – this one girl at our table asks me to take her stuff with me as I got up to take my trash away. And, no big deal, I was going to take my trash out anyways, I was completely fine with it.
But then it got to the point when everyone gave me their trash. Every day. I used to carry my lunch in a plastic baggy – like the ones you get at Wal-Mart or Target – so I could just throw everything away in it. And this group would put their trash in my bag as they finished certain things.
And I remember this one day in particular – I don’t know why – when I realized I didn’t need it anymore. Didn’t need them anymore.
One of the girls – the same one who started this trend – put her empty yogurt cup in my bag when I still had an apple in it. And I looked inside and there was some yogurt on my apple. And I looked up at her and she just smiled and laughed. And because I am who I am, I said, “My apple was still in there,” all annoyed like. Because I was. And I wasn’t intimidated by her, I really wasn’t. And she just laughed some more and said, “Oh, sorry.” And I realized she didn’t care.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I stuck around this group for a good part of my freshman year. This was a group that I didn’t even talk to at lunch or in the mornings when we all had to stand outside before the bell rang. Mostly because in the mornings, when I would walk up to one of them, there was awkward silence because I really had nothing in common with them and, also, I was just a quiet kid. And I liked being a quiet kid. I was really okay with just standing with someone in the mornings because standing with someone in silence is better than standing by yourself, all awkward. And I didn’t talk much at lunch because 1.) I honestly don’t think they would care what I had to say and 2.) it has happened more than once or a dozen times where I start talking and I’m blatantly interrupted in a middle of a sentence because someone has just realized that they have a better story to tell. So, why would I waste my breath?
And this I could deal with. I really could. I wasn’t about to complain about this because it could be so much worse. I could have no one to sit with at lunch. Which is the worst thing about high school. So bad, in fact, that every time I moved or switched to a new school – at any stage in my life – my one thought has always been, “I need to find someone to sit with at lunchtime.” Not because I wanted to be popular or anything – I couldn’t care less about that – but because sitting alone during lunch in middle or high school is mortifying. I wouldn’t have minded it if it had been acceptable. But it’s not. Sitting alone at lunchtime is – hands down – the worst thing to do at school.
But when that sophomore girl spilled her yogurt all over my apple that day, something clicked. I hated these kids. Like, I really did. There was no substance to them. These were the kids that made me go home feeling like crap because of their little offhanded jokes about me and my shyness or the way they never called me by my name and instead christened me, simply, “Freshman.” And how, when I asked them what they would call me when I was a sophomore and they were juniors, they simply replied, “We’ll call you Sophomore. Because we’re always going to be ahead of you.” And how, when one of the kids in our lunch group was gone a day, everyone – and yes, I do mean everyone at the table – would ask about him/her, and if they were sick and if they needed them to get some homework for them and if someone has texted them yet? And I realized, if I was gone for a day, would any of them even notice?
And I also realized, yes they would, because they would have to throw their own trash away.
So the next day, I asked a girl in my biology class if I could sit with her at lunch. Now, mind you, this was painful for me to do. Because 1.) talking to people has always been difficult for me and 2.) I was terrified she would say no. But she didn’t. And I made great friends with the people at her table. So great, in fact, that they were hands down the best lunch buddies I’ve ever had.
Why? Because they noticed if I was gone.
Now, they did have problems. There was drama between two of the girls constantly and many other issues, but they called me by my God given name and didn’t make me throw away their lunches.
There was a day, I also remember, that the sophomore girl – the same sophomore girl who started the “Freshman” name and trash thing – came up to me at my new lunch table and said something alone the line of We haven’t seen you in forever and We were wondering if you were okay and whatnot. Mind you, this was a few months after I left their table.
In high school and middle school and everything in between, sometimes you get this one thing that’s completely yours that holds you together. And for me, it was mostly YA novels and a lot of the times music, just like Elise. And no one can take that away from you. And your parents or friends might laugh if you try to explain it to them – why you don’t tell anyone when someone’s being mean to you at school, just like Elise didn’t. Because what I just explained to you in paragraphs, would stumble around in your mouth as it tried to roll off your tongue. And that parent or authoritative figure would look at you like you’re crazy and wonder why being called “Freshman” and taking other people’s trash out for them would be such a big deal. And you try to explain that you wouldn’t have minded if they had just asked if it was okay to put their yogurt in your bag or treated you with some dignity and that it’s just that, just that there are so many small things that add up to one big collage in your stomach that never quite goes away. And it feels like it’s eating you away because you’ve been through this so many times before and you’re worried it’s just going to pop one day. Like a giant balloon.
But then there are books and music. And during the time that’s yours, all you do is read and listen to music. And the balloon gets a little smaller. Just a little bit, but enough to hold on to as you go back to school the next day.
The only thing about this novel I wasn’t completely happy with – the thing that made me deduct a half star – was the love interest. It was predictable. A little annoyingly so, but it doesn’t compare to the paragraphs I have just shared with you above.
Also, if you’ve actually read all that – thank you. You’re a trooper. My little rant is over, promise. And I’ve just realized I haven’t talked much about the actual book, but I think that’s okay, because you’ve just read my rant, and if this book can do this to me, who’s read a million books, then it’s a pretty gosh darn good book.