Why did I want to read it?
I think I ordered this sometime in the fourth quarter of 2014 but haven’t gotten around to reading it until today. A lot of the bloggers I love have raved about this book and I was eager to find out the magic of it for myself.
What worked for me?
In a way, I think there’s a little bit of Elise Dembowski in each one of us in terms of that feeling of wanting to just be right or be like everyone else, or simply to be liked and accepted, to simply feel good about yourself, be happy with who you are, and not be chained or choked by whatever judgments other people might have about you.
There were those really powerful scenes, sometimes quiet scenes that my heart just goes completely out for Elise. I can just imagine the weight of every single thing you worry about just pushing and pushing you into the ground and how helpless she felt, how powerless. And in those parts, I just wanted to hug her and tell her she’s not alone. But she went through her hardships like a fledgeling warrior and her discovery of Start and her love for DJ’ing had been her turning point. And throughout her journey, I wished and wished even harder that she maintains her strength and keeps her hope and just live happy and content. I pretty much want her to have a happy ending because gosh, there were those moments that my heart could not take and I was inwardly consoling Elise, consoling myself as I read her story, and just hoping that every person who’s ever felt trapped by or tired of life does not lose hope and triumph through it all.
There’s a certain quiet power to Leila Sales’s writing. She touched on suicide, depression, and bullying in this book, but the way that we see things through Elise’s first point of view was just powerful in its delivery because even though it was plain, it wasn’t simple and the next thing you know, her words are grasping at your lungs pulling your breath from you or just tugging at your heart like it wants to hold and keep you in one place. And for me that quality of her storytelling was so gripping and yet flowing. So good.
I also loved how family relationships, friendships, and self-acceptance were explored throughout the book. Each turn of events also keeps on turning into this side and that side or this angle and to that angle the relationships that these characters have especially with Elise.
What did not work for me?
This is not really a thing that didn’t work for me but you know that feeling when you’re reading that you know things are going to go to a very bad place pretty soon and it’s like you want to stop reading but of course you have to keep reading to get past that bad place. I had a lot of moments like that with this book that I had to put it down a few times to calm myself. So, this isn’t really a bad thing but more like a warning, I guess. But let me just say outright that going through that, totally worth it just to read this book.
My over-all take on it?
This was a very powerful story and one that really touched my heart, my consciousness, and my thoughts. I was emotionally engaged every step of the way and while that made it harder to read some parts, that also made it easier for me to journey through the book from beginning to ending. I think it’s an inspiring story of and for everyone of us who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong, that they weren’t enough only to discover and accept that those are complete untruths.
I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with my parents and our cat. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a writer, actress, or singer. The writing part turned out to be easiest to accomplish, since it turns out I can’t really carry a tune, though I can do a mean karaoke rendition of “Hey Mickey.”
I wrote and illustrated approximately one million picture books when I was in elementary school, all of them about unicorns or cats or princesses, or princess unicorns who were best friends with princess cats. When I was seven, I wrote a longer story about quintuplets named Marissa, Larissa, Clarissa, Melissa, and Alyssa. The quintuplets were not princesses, but they did get invited to a royal ball.
During middle school and high school, I wrote five upublished YA novels. Sometimes I stopped writing for long enough to do my homework, like the time I wrote a picture book about German Unification for history class.
I went to college at the University of Chicago, where I majored in psychology. I also performed in Off-Off Campus (the U of C’s improv and sketch comedy troupe), competed in debate tournaments all over the world, helped judge the world’s largest scavenger hunt, and wrote a humor column for the school paper. And I wrote another unpublished YA novel, for which I was awarded the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Fiction Writing.
After graduating, I got a job at a children’s book publishing company in New York City, where I happily remain to this day. My first YA novel was published in 2010, and since then, I’ve just kept working on more. During the daytime I read other people’s books, and during the nighttime I write my own. What more could I need?
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