Elise Dembowski is a chronic overachiever. Her project for sophomore year is to finally fit in. When this fails and Elise discovers that she is still the same as she’s always been, she makes a desperate decision—a suicide attempt—that ostracizes her even further.
After this incident, Elise takes to walking alone at night, which is how she stumbles across Start, an underground dance party. There, she meets a cast of characters who help her begin to see the light at the end of the crushingly dark and seemingly endless tunnel that is high school. Elise begins living a double life, returning each week to Start and learning to DJ. The alluring but elusive DJ Char takes her under his wing and helps her develop her talent. When a cyberbully dredges up Elise’s past and begins attacking her via a fraudulent online journal, Elise’s passion for DJ’ing becomes her refuge. Her secrets eventually become impossible to maintain, forcing her to come clean about who she is and who she wants to be. Elise is a remarkably self-aware character. Her journey toward acceptance—of others and of herself—is compelling. The supporting characters are equally well-developed, with the strengths and flaws of real people. Sales’ narrative, rich with diverse music references, reverberates with resilience.
Pulsates with hope for all the misfits. (Fiction. 14-18)