I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m snuggling up on my couch and getting ready for a marathon reading session, I’ll spend a little too much time trying to figure out what record to put on. Do I put on a playlist? Is this more of a pop-punk book, or does it require a little more emo? The struggle gets real, and I’ll sometimes lose a solid 15 to 20 minutes of reading time looking for the right music.
So this is my way of trying to help you out, you guys. I’ve gathered four recent YA novels and two ongoing series that’ll pair perfectly with the following tunes. Open up your playlists. It’s time to make a reading mix.
Gibaldi’s debut, about breakups, complicated friendships, games of truth or dare, and high school indie punk rock bands would pair perfectly with Coming Home. In The Night We Said Yes, we’re introduced to Ella and Matt, and their relationship that started with an evening of saying yes to every truth or dare. When Matt leaves Ella, her friends, and their town, and then returns one year later to try to win everyone back, he tries to re-create their first magical evening together.
If you’re a pop-punk fan, you’ll know Coming Home is New Found Glory’s slightly more mature album, with lots of songs about breakups, heartache, growing up, and coming back together, all themes contained in Gibaldi’s lovely novel. Not to mention the title track, Coming Home, speaks to exactly what Matt’s trying to do in The Night We Said Yes.
In Arnold’s debut, a teen girl named Mim sets off on a journey from Mississippi to Ohio on a Greyhound bus, with hopes of returning to her real home and real mother, who she’s learned is battling a sickness. She has to confront a lot of her own personal demons, and learns about friendship and love along the way.
Now, I’d argue that some of the best road trip music ever…is ska. That’s right, I said it. The lyrics from Borders & Boundaries (“Take all the westbound signs and just leave town tonight,” from “Look What Happened”) and In With the Out Crowd (“I still believe in facing all my demons, and everything that people promised, everything I’ve always wanted, from “Soundtrack of My Life”) mesh together perfectly with Mim’s journey of growth and discovery on the open road. Because while Mim’s journey isn’t as happy as most ska music, the lyrics that accompany Less Than Jake’s hopeful melodies are always full of self-reflection and discovery.
In Varneveld’s debut, Keira Nolan finally has the captain of her school’s football team in her bedroom. There’s only one problem: He’s dead. As in, a ghost. And no one else can see him. So she goes on a mission to help find his killer in this really fun paranormal romance of spirits and mystery.
Okay, I’m going to get a little obscure here, but the perfect, and I mean perfect album to pair with this is Armor for Sleep’s What To Do When You Are Dead by Armor for Sleep. It’s a concept record by an emo/pop-punk group about a young man who dies in a car crash and exists as a ghost, lurking around the locations that made him happy. And those lyrics, oh, those lyrics.
“I came down here to tell you it rains in heaven all day long, I wanna find you so bad and let you know I’m miserable up here without you, miserable up here without you…” (“The Truth About Heaven”)
Pair with care, readers. There might be tears.
In the first book of Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, readers meet Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who’s loathed by her stepmother and treated like a second-class citizen. But, due to some chance circumstances, she runs into a handsome prince and gets roped into an enormous struggle of intergalactic proportions. It’s full of wit and snark, and really, if you haven’t read this series yet, you need to fix that ASAP.
Let’s pair Meyer’s futuristic cyborg reimagining of Cinderella with another concept album, this time by Janelle Monáe. In The ArchAndroid, Monáe introduces listeners to the story of Cindi Mayweather, an android sent back in time to free the people from a secret society that’s been using time travel for nefarious purposes.
There are a lot of great YA stories about ballet hitting shelves lately, from Tiny Pretty Things to Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, to Brandy Colbert’s Pointe, to Katherine Locke’s NA title Second Position.
I’d recommend pairing any of these with Black Swan. Inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the soundtrack takes those classic ballet songs and puts some intense changes in. The music becomes all the more dramatic, and let’s be real, Tiny Pretty Things is packed with drama. Centering on three students fighting to make their way at a brutally competitive NYC ballet school, it’s got all the backstabbing, secrets, betrayals, and bloody good fun you’re looking for
In Kiera Cass’s Selection series, readers are introduced to a Bachelor-esque world where young women compete to win the affections of the realm’s prince, becoming the country’s next princess. Focusing on America Singer, an unlikely candidate for the show and the process, Cass takes us on a really fun, swoon-filled journey of a girl who feels out of place, competing for a position that might just be perfect for her.
I’d pair The One, as well as the rest of The Selection series, with Nada Surf’s The Weight is a Gift. One, because of the title of the album. The weight in The Selection series is the pressure of ruling a kingdom that’s at war with itself, the pressures of being royalty. And while it’s terrifying, sure, it’s a gift at the same time, a lesson America slowly learns. There’s room to change things. To fix them for the better of the people.
And two, for the songs. Particularly Always Love, which feels like a great anthem for America. “To make a mountain of your life is just a choice, but I never learned enough, to listen to the voice that told me…always love, hate will get you every time.” That’s the main lesson she walks away with. And now I want to read this book again while listening to this album.