YA Books and Music: What to Listen to While You Read
Movies and soundtracks are like two peas in a pod, but we’d argue that books and music make a great pair too! What better way to amplify the environment, characters and mood of a story than listening to music while reading? Below you’ll find our picks for YA book and music pairings.
All music recommended here is available on Hoopla, a music, movie, and book streaming platform that can be used on your personal device. To learn more about Hoopla, visit henricolibrary.org/ebooks. Note: Music links will direct readers to clean/non-explicit versions of albums.
After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson – Neeka and her best friend’s perspectives are broadened when D, a foster child, enters their small, safe world in Queens, NY. The girls bond over their love for Tupac Shakur's rap music, although it becomes clear that his lyrics resonate more deeply with D. Learning about D's tragic experiences brings the girls closer together and gives them an even stronger appreciation for Tupac's music. When D's mom shows up to take her away, she disappears just as quickly as she entered their lives. Around the same time, the world learns of Tupac's tragic death. The girls are left grieving the disappearance of their friend and the death of their musical idol, learning that even brief connections can have a lasting impact.
Recommended Listening: 2Pac – Considered one of history’s best rappers, 2pac's honest and eye-opening lyrics highlight the many issues and inequalities facing Black people in America. Gain a deeper understanding of D and the girls' love for 2pac while listening to his music yourself.
Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne – This book-length poem, written by Brooklyn Slam co-founder Mahogany Browne, reminds readers that despite the many injustices, obstacles, and stereotypes that Black girls face, they have the resilience and power to overcome these struggles.
Recommended Listening: Lizzo – Confident, unapologetic, and dripping with Black Girl Magic, Lizzo is the perfect artist to listen to while enjoying this title.
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky – This story recounts how a fan fiction writer and her three best friends take their obsession with The Ruperts, a boy band, to a whole new (and dangerous) level. When one of the girls uses a family connection to score a room at the same hotel The Ruperts are staying in, things take a surprising turn…like a stalking, kidnapping and murdering kind of turn. But they promise it was an accident. Seriously, they didn't mean to! Written in a darkly humorous tone, Kill the Boy Band navigates fandom extremes while exploring themes of fantasy vs. reality, self-doubt, disappointment, and revenge.
Recommended Listening: Justin Bieber – A pop-star since puberty, Justin Bieber knows a thing or two about megafans and being an international heart throb. Undoubtedly experienced with extreme Beliebers, what better soundtrack is there than JB himself?
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo – Major Korean pop star, Lucky, is just a day away from what could be a life changing performance. Tomorrow she’ll be debuting to America on the Tonight Show. No pressure, right? But right now, sitting in her fancy hotel room, Lucky just needs a hamburger. Determined to satisfy her craving, Lucky decides to sneak out. Cue Jack: an on-assignment tabloid reporter who has decided to sneak in to the same, previously mentioned, fancy hotel. When the two cross paths on their way out the door, it's clear that neither of them will ever be the same.
Recommended Listening: BTS – ... need we say more? The international K-Pop obsession will have you dancing, developing new crushes, and seriously enjoying this book from start to finish.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy – Pageant season has arrived and the famed Miss Teen Blue Bonnet competition is right around the corner. That wouldn't be a problem for self-proclaimed fat girl and Dolly Parton enthusiast, Willowdean Dickson (aka 'Will,' aka 'Dumplin'), if her mother didn't happen to be a former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet herself (and current head of the pageant). To distract herself from pageant chaos, Will spends time with her best friend, focuses on her job (and her co-worker/crush, Bo), and tries to process the death of her aunt, who, unlike her mother, appreciated her for who she is. But to everyone's surprise, Will makes the shocking decision to enter the competition and claim her moment in the spotlight.
Recommended Listening: Dolly Parton – It’s no mystery why leading character, Will, is a die-hard Dolly fan. The over-the-top, unapologetic, genuine, and kind-hearted living legend Dolly Parton is a whole mood. Just one listen to these Dolly hits and you’ll be mega-fanning too.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – Set during the 1980s in El Paso, Texas, 15-year-old Mexican Americans Ari and Dante develop a friendship. The two are seemingly opposites. Ari is angry: angry that his brother's in prison, angry that his sisters are off and married, angry that he's the only child left at home to deal with the family's tension. Dante, on the other hand, is upbeat, nerdy, and introspective. While different, the two friends bond over similar struggles as they come to terms with their insecurities, families, cultural and sexual identities and their increasingly complicated friendship.
Recommended Listening: The Cure – Let this 1980s post-punk band that challenged gender norms and toxic masculinity serve as your soundtrack for this story about two teens coming to terms with themselves and their own sexuality.
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley – 16-year-old Maggie's world is turned upside down when her mother's recent marriage moves them from Chicago to rural Ireland. Maggie misses her beloved Uncle Kevin, who made sure to always educate her on the latest cool rock bands. As Maggie struggles to adapt to her new surroundings, the news of Uncle Kevin's sudden death provides a devastating blow. Determined to fulfill Uncle Kevin's dying wish to see Nirvana live in Rome, Maggie sets out (without permission) on a journey across Europe and learns a lot about her own strength along the way.
Recommended Listening: Nirvana – If Maggie is willing to travel across Europe for them, then you know they must be good. Defined by their iconic grunge style and angst-filled lyrics, Nirvana sets the tone for a story about a teen struggling with change, tragedy and discovering herself.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power – Tox sickness invaded the Raxter School for Girls. It crept in slowly and has ravaged and distorted the bodies of teachers and students alike. With only a few girls remaining, including friends Hetty, Byatt, and Reese, it's imperative that they watch out for one another and remain hopeful for a cure. But when Byatt disappears, both Hetty and Reese risk it all and break quarantine to search for her beyond the fence, in the wild.
Recommended Listening: Animal Collective – The Animal Collective's experimental and often unpredictable sound is a fitting backdrop for this suspenseful title that will have you on the edge of your seat.