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276 pages, Hardcover
First published September 17, 2013
“Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.”
“You think it's so easy to change yourself. You think it's so easy, but it's not. True, things don't stay the same forever: couches are replaced, boys leave, you discover a song, your body becomes forever scarred. And with each of these moments you change and change again, your true self spinning, shifting positions-- but always at last it returns to you, like a dancer on the floor. Because throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable. And isn't that - just you - enough.”
“I was born to be unpopular”
I was working on my combination when my friends showed up. You know, Chava and Sally. Those friends. “Just the people I wanted to see!” I said to them, and I wasn’t even sarcastic for once.
The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was listen to the music. I tried, for nearly an hour. Then I gave uo. It was bad. Not even interesting-bad (…). The popular music wasn’t interesting-bad, it was bad-bad. Auto-Tuned vocalists who couldn’t really sing; offensively simplistic instrumentation; grating melodies. Like they thought we were stupid.
Pete took a swig of ginger ale. “If you’re saying that you’re sure I could find some thirty-six-year-old guy who’s spun ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ so many times that he’s able to play Tetris in his phone while he’s DJing, while chugging Red Bull so he can stay awake until four am, then yeah.I’m sure I could find that guy, too. (…) But, Elise, believe me when I tell you this: your talent, your natural talent, puts Char’s to shame.”
That was Char. It was all laid out for me across the Internet. It was a simple portrait of a person, like a million other people, and I felt the magic of Char float off into the air, as if I’d blown on a pile of dust.
After I had learned all I cared about Michael Kirkby, I looked up my own name. (…) The first two search result were the same as always. (…) But the third result was different. Elise Dembowski suicide had fallen down on the list. The third thing that came up when I typed my own name was Elise Dembowski DJ. I stared at my computer screen for a long moment, and I smiled.
“You think it’s so easy to change yourself. You think it’s so easy, but it’s not.”
“Sometimes when you are worn down, day after day, relentlessly, with no reprieve for years piled on years, sometimes you lose everything but the ability to cry.”Elise is a sophomore in High School and has never really fit in with her peers. But she wants to change this. She wants to sit in the middle of the bus instead of the front, have someone sit with her instead of sitting alone, have a conversation with someone instead of listening to her ipod. Feeling like you don’t belong has been a general feeling amongst the youth of today; especially High Schoolers. Being a High School student myself I really connected to what Elise was feeling and all of the thoughts going through her head. Once Elise decided she had had enough of the bullying and abuse she was receiving at school she decided to hurt herself. After cutting herself she realized that she didn’t want death she just wanted someone to care if she died. A couple months, therapy sessions, hospital visits later Elise is back in school and stumbles across an underground nightclub and she comes alive.
“I like projects where I could take things apart and figure out exactly how they worked. The problem is, you can’t do that with people.”Elise meets many people while at the nightclub. Mel, the guard/body guard at the door of the club who becomes a father figure for Elise. Vicky, an outgoing soon to be rockstar who befriends Elise. Pippa, Vicky’s “do now ask later” kind of friend. Char, the Start’s DJ and mentor to Elise. Every single character in this book had depth, even the petty popular girls in school that we only meet for a couple of pages. They were all interesting and unique. There were a few stereotypes used throughout the book but it helped convey Elise’s thoughts and how she sees High School.
“I was smiling like a crazy person because I had just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy.”Char, the DJ at Start, sees Elise’s love of music and talent with the turntables. He takes her under his wing and teaches not only how to DJ but how to DJ the right way. It’s not only about playing songs that you like over and over. Anyone with an ipod can do that. It’s about reading the crowd to see what they are reaction to, beat matching, and most of all losing yourself in the feel of the music. Elise is a fast learner and soon Char lets her DJ for a half hour every night on Thursday’s. Elise loves the feeling of being in the DJ booth looking out over the club and watching what her music can do to people. In those moments she is truly happy, but when the lights turn on and she has to sneak back into her bedroom, the feeling of being invincible starts to fade.
“Tonight the Internet seemed filled with versions of me, like a fun house filled with mirrors. Some of them made me look prettier, and some of them made me look uglier, and some of them chopped me right in half, but none of them were right.”Elise loves the nightclub scene. When the lights are dim and the music is loud everything looks ten times better and everyone seems ten times more interesting. That bartender? He is a college student trying to pay for his schooling. That girl with the shirt skirt and spiky pumps? She’s a talented singer that’s trying to graduate. That DJ with the unicorn boots? She’s a sophomore in High School that’s bullied and is just trying to fit in. But in the dark you don’t see all of these insecurities or normal features of a person. You only see what they want you to see, because for one Thursday night every week they can be whomever they want.
“Sometimes you just have those days. When you know, from the moment you wake up, that everything you touch you will break, so the less you touch, the better.”This book is one of the best portrayals of depression, anxiety, and bullying I have ever read. From the first page I was sucked into Elise’s head and found myself engulfed in emotion. For me this book put all of my feelings, fears, and insecurities on paper and it was a little sad and hard to read. But, in the end this book helped me come to terms with those feelings and ultimately helped me understand myself better.
“Sometimes you just have those days where everything goes wrong. But sometimes, and totally unexpectedly, something can go right.”This book shows that even when you feel like everything is broken, one day with help, everything will come back together. Each person’s feelings and emotions are valid, and every situation is different. This means that reading this book you might feel the portrayal of depression, etc isn’t good because that wasn’t your or a loved one's experience. But, somewhere out in the world there is someone reading this book and connecting to the characters feelings and finding a sense of understanding and love in between these pages.
“I was giving up. But sometimes you have to give up something you are to get to who you want to be.”The writing style was perfect. It was just descriptive enough to imagine the scene but vague enough that you could modify certain things. Leila Sales’ writes amazing characters and plot. There weren’t any lagging moments or scenes that weren’t vital to the growth of characters or the plot.
“It was a very small compliment, but it came from someone who mattered, about something that mattered.”All in all if you are in the right mindset this book will move you. Elise is a relatable character that burrowed into my heart, read my mind, and spoke to my soul. Her words didn't seem overplayed or fake. All she wanted to be was popular and you know what happened instead? People were horrible and treated her badly. Some say it's the "high school experience", but to me that's just an excuse for the abuser. It doesn't matter if it's verbal, physical, emotional, cyber, or in person, what matters is that one person is being hurt. I absolutely loved this book and it definitely holds a special place in my heart.
I was born to be unpopular.
"Don't be special." That's what I would say to my younger self if I could pinpoint the moment when I went astray. But there was no one moment. I was always astray.
And then one day on the playground, Lizzie Reardon came over and casually said to my new friend, “Don’t spend too much time with Elise. She might rub off on you.” I was sitting right there. It wasn’t a secret. I was a social liability.
This was fourth grade.
I’ve gone to school with the same kids since kindergarten. And they knew what I was long before I did. I was uncool by fourth grade. How is it even possible to be an uncool fourth grader? Didn’t we all just string together friendship bracelets and daydream about horses and pretend to solve mysteries back then?
But somehow, even in fourth grade, they knew.
Plus I had spent so long on my playlist that it was already nearly five o’clock. So, realistically, this wasn’t a great day for dying. Which was a disappointment, but also sort of a relief.
Since I already had the X-Acto knife, though, and I already had the playlist, I decided to go into the bathroom to practice a little. To practice cutting myself, I mean. Just a little, so that when the time came to do it for real, it wouldn’t be scary.
Again, I knew I could look this up. How long does it take between the time you cut yourself and the time you die? The Internet would know. But I wouldn’t ask, because that made everything seem so clichéd. Another teenage suicide attempt, another cry for attention. It’s all been done before.
Only mine wasn’t going to be a cry for attention.
I was broken
I was choking
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life
"I have friends now. Surprise! Making friends is actually not that hard when you drop every single one of your standards. "
"Popular music isn't interesting-bad, it was bad-bad."
"My favorite band in kindergarten was the Cure, because I liked their lyrics."
"I started speaking in sentences when I was a year old."
Don’t be special.
"Mostly I feel bad for Sally and Chava, but sometimes I’m jealous of them. Their parents clearly screwed them up for life, or at least for high school, so they have someone to blame for their uncoolness. I don’t have that luxury. I can only blame myself."
"So when I asked my father for DJ equipment, Dad didn’t ask why. "
"I was uncool by fourth grade."
"I was born to be unpopular."
I was smiling like a crazy person because I had just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy. I, Elise, using my own power, had made people happy.
"Do you want to dance?" he asked, holding out his hand to me.
"I wanna dance with somebody," Whitney sang, "with somebody who loves me."
I shook my head, feeling myself blush. "I don't really dance."
Char furrowed his brow. "Why not?"
"I ... I don't really know how."
”But I wouldn't ask, because that made everything seem so clichéd. Another teenage suicide attempt, another cry for attention. It’s all been done before.
“People are who they are and, try as you might, you cannot make them be what you want them to be.”
“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.”