I normally don't review on the weekends; I just couldn't wait any longer to tell you about this one though!
Elise is a fragile girl who's never felt like she fitted in anywhere. Shuttled between her divorced parents, she's desperate to be popular at school but can't work out how. Then a chance event leads to her DJ'ing in Start, a hot underground nightclub and her life suddenly improves dramatically - but can she really leave behind her old self, or are the bullies who make her feel like there's nothing worthwhile about her life right all along?
I picked this up on Laura from Sister Spooky's recommendation and read it all in one train journey (when I had lots of review books I should have been reading instead.) It's gripping from the very first chapter, which ends with Elise making a horrific decision which feels all too real because of the skill with which Sales shows us her issues. Demonstrating how casual day to day nastiness can be so draining on a person and just how much damage a teenager's peers can do, it's got a strong anti-bullying message which never feels preachy. It's brutal at times - if anything, the stunning prose and Elise's incredible voice make it even harder-hitting.
(On the subject of that voice; I'd bookmarked on the Kindle app particularly good lines. When reading on Kindle, I do this for perhaps one or two lines per book, five or six for a really good one. I've just checked, and this one has sixty-eight. I'd share them with you, but many are venturing too close to spoiler territory, and how do you pick just one or two out of sixty-eight?)
So, there are parts which came close to completely destroying me, and did bring me to tears in the end - possibly a first on public transport; The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson would have got me there but with ten minutes to go of a journey I put that one down so I could burst into tears back at home. I had three quarters of an hour left of my train ride when I could feel that I was about to cry here, and just couldn't bring myself to leave off reading for that long.
However it's also hopeful, and it does an incredible job of showing the value of true friendship, as Elise begins to meet people she does feel comfortable with, both in and out of Start. In addition to the tears at the saddest parts, there were plenty of smiles as Elise really blossomed into a happier character through her DJ'ing. Oh, and it gets bonus marks for the outstanding taste in music Sales displays through the songs used in the book.
Not that a book like this - which practically screams six stars on a five star rating scale - really needs bonus marks for musical taste. The voice, the prose, the plot, an amazing ending, and a strong supporting cast (including parents who actually clearly care about their daughter and don't act like complete idiots) mean that it's one of the best of the year so far.