- This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Elise has been an outcast since fourth grade, but she is determined that tenth grade will be different. Approaching cool like a research project, she learns about all of the music and movies she is supposed to like and how she is supposed to dress, but she forgets the most important thing: trying too hard to be cool is not cool. When things don’t work out, she contemplates suicide (and when Elise contemplates something, she explores all of the angles), and even makes a half-hearted attempt that results in her being more outcast than ever. Things finally change when she happens upon an after-hours club and learns to DJ, which makes her feel important and even gets her a boyfriend. Eventually, though, she learns even here that the problem is what it’s always been: that she’s precocious and the world rewards ordinary. Elise’s penetrating reflections on all of the facets of any situation in which she finds herself are the real draw here; being overly book-smart, she is appealingly snarky while questioning every social interaction and interrogating the effectiveness of her responses, mostly because they don’t work out the way she imagines they should. Since she’s firmly implanted in the high school scene, where being extraordinarily gifted at many things is seen as a disability, readers who fight their own battles with an intellect that outruns their social ease will find themselves relating to Elise’s wry observations about how hard it is to make even the simplest of relationships work. Elise’s path toward self-acceptance is bumpy enough to be credible and poignant enough to be genuinely moving, giving even the most socially awkward readers hope that their tribe is out there.