Empowerment Through Music: Young Adult Titles

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Empowerment Through Music: Young Adult Titles

Even though it seems to exist in a world of its own, literature – especially young adult literature – is inherently familiar and joined with music. The rhythm and emphasis on figurative language are often enough on their own to connect books to the realm of musicality. However, sometimes music also becomes part of the story or takes on a more concrete shape in the life of the protagonist. For these stories, music is essential. If you have a taste for music and YA Fiction; these stories are ones you shouldn’t miss.
 
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Mia, an incredibly gifted cellist, suffers a tragic car accident that leaves her with a tough decision. As she narrates the book, she reflects back on what happened before the accident, and on what type of life could possibly be had after. Having been on the precipice about making a decision to leave her home and start a new version of life at Juliard in New York City (far from home and her boyfriend – also a musician) the accident adds weight to the decision and presents her with the choice of something even more complicated, and more solemn. If you have had passion for a dream, but found it to have a price, this is a relatable title.
 
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Hard-rocking and free spirited Colby and Bev take off for the summer with the rest of their band for a tour of the Pacific Northwest. Once they get on the road, Bev announces she is abandoning the gap-year plan she and Colby had decided upon and a sense of distance grows between them. Both the distinctive personalities embarking on “what’s next” in their lives and the interpersonal turmoil of finding your path bending itself away from that of a loved one make for a compelling read.
 
 
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Gabe (formerly Elizabeth) is trans*. Just like any other teenager or person, Gabe is not defined by a gender identity. In fact, what most defines Gabe is his love of music and passion for a career in the radio industry. While finishing up high school, Gabe works at a radio station and finds a mentor in one of the disc jockeys there. With a killer list of eclectic artists scattered on its pages, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children depicts how music offers a concrete place of belonging even when living in one’s own body can be a struggle.
 
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Shared themes between This Song Will Save Your Life and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children give readers a sense of the safe haven that music offers when you are still figuring out how your life should be. With music (specifically DJing) Elise, who has never been popular, is given an ability to take the reins of her own life and put her stamp on the world around her. She also comes into contact with others who she can connect with because of shared love of music. As she figures out herself and where she might belong, she is given access to others with similar dispositions and for the first time, starts to develop meaningful friendships. Add in a little romance, and this book is both a sweet and joyous celebration of music and self-empowerment.
 
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Even though the other books on this list are also about identity and development, and several deal with hard-hitting issues, none are quite so emotionally poignant as Eleanor and Park. This book, being set in the 1980s and having such specifically detailed (and devastating) character development gives it a tactile sensibility that is not shared by the other books. Eleanor and Park both live fairly isolated lives and have struggles. Eleanor and Park slowly get to know one another, and become more comfortable in their own skin as a result of the kinship they develop. When words are not enough, their music and their hearts speak for them. A charged book about how we can free ourselves, music is weaved through this book both for a sense of time/place and a look at how we escape our surroundings to find ourselves.
 
Hopefully this list will result in your putting on some good background music, and getting down to reading.