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This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales 3.5 stars

I don't know anyone who wouldn't be able to relate to Elise's story in some way. After all, the need to be accepted or to belong is universal. So are fears of being socially excluded and humiliated. I don't think there's anyone who hasn't committed social faux pas and didn't want to crawl into a hole after. Regardless of age group, there are certain unwritten rules you need to follow in order to avoid awkward social situations. For unknown reasons, Elise just can't fit in. She doesn't have friends. She never says the "right" things, and she can't stop being the object of ridicule among her peers.

During one summer break, she decided that she has had enough, so she did her research: studied cool people, bought magazines and listened to pop music, listened to gossip in order to be "in the know." She bought nice clothes, practiced smiling more often, and swore to make friends at the start of her sophomore year. But when that day came, her plan backfired when a particular event made her realize that no amount of preparation can make people like her.

I've been there. I know that pang of something Elise felt in the pit of her stomach when people made her feel like they've uncovered her mask. I know what it's like to overthink things before saying what's on your mind because you care too much about what others think. I know what it's like to not speak up because no one else might find what you have to say interesting. I know what it's like to be clueless. At times I'd like to believe that I was a pretty self-confident child but my old blogs tell me otherwise. Frankly, at that time, it seems as though everyone else has it all figured out, but I don't think that's true anymore.

I know we feel things differently and I don't intend to make light of Elise's problems but I had a few issues with her constant whining and feeling sorry for herself. I know that high school is full of bullies and exclusive cliques, but I also know that not all kids are mean and deliberately hurtful. Elise has poor social esteem. And while it seems that the constant rejection from her peers enabled her insecurities, I think it stems from somewhere deeper than that. I don't know, her parents' separation maybe? She introduced her half sister and brother as her mom and stepdad's kids, not as her siblings. Maybe she felt excluded at home too. I'm not about to psychoanalyze but I had to ponder on this when her stepdad sent her away and said that he can't allow her to be near his family when she did that horrible thing to her sister. Oh, so it's his family.

There was also that time in middle school when Elise confided in her dad about the kids who made fun of her. His response? "They're just jealous." I HATE THIS LOGIC. I know he was just trying to make her feel better, and I know for a fact that jealous people do have a tendency to put others down so they can feel better but it's not always the case. Sometimes, people make fun of you just because they can.

I don't doubt that Elise is a good person who just happened to be a victim of bullying. But being a good person doesn't equate to being likable. She's a musical elitist, judging people who do not appreciate her type of music. She hangs out with Sally and Chava, but thinks that they're beneath her. But she used them - to sit with during lunch and to drive her when she needed a ride. And then when that whole thing with Char blew up, she goes on the Internet to find what she could and use that information to make herself feel better. He was a douchebag, yes, but he is also just a boy who's still trying to figure himself out. I would think that after the fake blog incident, she knows better than to judge a person based on what she finds online.

While I found the beginning of the story to be very relatable and realistic, the events leading to the end weren't as believable. I believe in talent and hard work, but I also believe in the invaluable lessons of experience and sound counsel from elders. I am glad she learned her lessons and found her niche through DJing at such a young age. Some of us aren't so lucky. Some of us won't get it until much later in life. I think the impact of this book will greatly depend on the reader's personal experience. And while there were plenty of shared experiences and feelings, I am just not 100% in agreement with Elise's self-realizations.