TSWSYL is the story of Elise Dembowski’s struggle and ultimate success with finding herself, embracing identity, and making herself happy. Elise has never been cool. She has never been even close to a cool kid. She has been bullied, tormented, picked on, and ridiculed for as long as she can remember. Elise is good at things – usually too good. She can pick up an instrument in a weekend, master a craft practically overnight, and ace most of her tests at the same time. She likes boots with unicorns on them and sequin-embellished belts. This does not make her cool.
The summer before her sophomore year Elise decides that she will be cool this year. All she needs to do is practice. So she does – she treats coolness like homework, and studies-studies-studies, shops for trendy clothes, watches trendy movies, reads the newest fashion magazines, and stalks trendy blogs online. When the first day of the school year arrive, Elise feels ready to change. But nothing does. She is still Elise Dembowski, insult magnet and unfashionable smart kid that no one likes. Elise decides that day to kill herself. She tries – and doesn’t – and nothing changes.
The narrative of Elise’s thoughts is mesmerizing. Page-turning. So real and honest and blunt.
""All I wanted was to listen to music, but wearing headphones makes you look cut off from the rest of the world, antisocial. I wasn’t going to be antisocial this year. I was decidedly pro-social.”
“Just keep walking, I told myself. It’s like when Lizzie Reardon calls your name in the hallway. Just keep walking. Think invisible, and if you’re lucky maybe you will become invisible.""
Elise could be any bullied high school girl, but she’s not – she’s different. And that kind of different that makes her even more unpopular is what draws you into her mind.
""Here are all the dance floor experiences I’ve had so far in my life:
1. Ruining the Tiny Dancers year-end recital at the YMCA when I was six years old because I didn’t know how to skip.
2. Going to a school dance in 7th grade, where they played songs like ‘Shake Your Ass,’ only with the word ass bleeped out, and everybody grinded up on everybody else, except nobody grinded up on me.
So, for what I think are some pretty good reasons, I don’t dance.""
This was one of my favorite books from 2013. I daresay that it might be my favorite book I’ve read this year. I know, it’s not even February, but when you read a book entirely in one sitting, cried after just the first chapter, and then want to read it again the next day there is definitely something important going on. And that’s what happened.
I could really relate to Elise. There was so much she did and said that most people just don’t say or do, and I could really relate. Because I do those things and say those things. I have always been picked on for being smart. I hate that feeling, and Elise does, too. She really doesn’t understand why it happens, and I am only just now starting to. Elise’s relationship with Char is so unlike most YA romances, but it is so real. It is was really happens between girls who are distant from their families, who have few to no friends, and guys who are so disconnected from their girls. Vicki and Pippa adopting Elise into their circle was so like what happened to me in high school when I found my best group of friends. There is just so much to relate to, for teens and older young adults, and yet so much to learn from Elise, as well.
In the end, I was so happy with TSWSYL. I shut the book feeling satisfied, complete, and triumphant because Elise won in the end. She found herself, she embraced what she loved and what she wanted and who she really was, and that made her happy. It wasn’t easy, or fast, or without heartbreak and struggle and fighting, but she made it happen.
I highly recommend TSWSYL to teens who want a contemporary story, a realistic romance, a coming-of-age adventure, or just a really good book. I would also recommend it to older young adults who are fans of music, dancing, and who may feel a little like a DJ sometimes.