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The Soundtrack of Your Books: When Music and Books Collide

I recently finished reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (which I loved and totally recommend).  The title is a play on the famous (and awesome) song Tiny Dancer by Elton John.  In fact, every chapter title in the book is a musical reference.  This book has a built in playlist, and it is not the only one.

Music is often a huge influence on literature.  When music and teen fiction intersect, and when they do it well, it is an enriching experience.  I’m not just talking about books where the protagonist is trying to be a singer or sings in the shower, but books in which the author has thought about the music and builds the work around a playlist in their minds.  As you read the book, a soundtrack unfolds much like a movie soundtrack.

The soundtrack can be real songs, or those created by the author.  In Where She Went by Gayle Forman, each chapter begins with a reference to lyrics from the album Collateral Damage which is not a real album, but one created for the purposes of propelling the narrative forward.  The lyrics highlight the hurt and anger and healing journey that Adam and Mia take one night in New York.  If You Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman are also excellent, moving reads that I highly recommend you read.

For an excellent example of a book playlist look no further then Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chybosky.

Just Listen is the story of Annabelle Greene.  Annabelle was raped and has lost everything, including her best friend Sophie.  When she meets brutally honest Owen, his love of music leads her on a healing journey.  The playlist plays an important part in helping to create the mood of Dessen’s novel and help to tell the story.  At her blog, Sarah Dessen talks about her playlist and why she choose the songs that she choose.  It’s a fascinating look into the mind of an author as she invites you in to this part of her writing process.
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower (coming soon to a theater near you), “Charlie” is a melancholy soul haunted by pain and secrets. Perks is a highly controversial book because of some of its content and subject matter, and it is one of the most frequently stolen book at my old library, but it is a moving story and it speaks to teens.  If you google it, you will find tons of fan art inspired by the book.  And like Just Listen, Perks has a built in playlist which teens discuss and share online.  The playlist helps bring the reader into the story and provides a platform for continuing the discussion.  You can find the playlist for download at playlist.com.

Playlist is a place for teens, any music lover actually, to build an online playlist and share it with others.  It is the Internet version of the mix tape.  Although the methodology has changed, the message is still the same: music is a powerful force and we like to share what moves us with others.  When authors create a playlist in their books, they are building a soundtrack to their story.  Some readers go beyond the page and actually put the soundtrack together and continue the story.

For another example of an amazing intersection of music and books, look no further then Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

A book doesn’t have to have a built in playlist for a reader to create a playlist.  Some songs may remind you of a story or the mood of a piece or personality of a character and you can create your own playlist.  I have always thought that this would be a fun activity for teens to challenge them to create a playlist of their favorite books and invite them to share them online.

More about book playlists and books and music
There is a list of books with playlists at YALSA
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga playlist can be found here
And just for fun, here is a list of songs inspired by books.  It can go both ways
The Hold Me Closer, Necromancer playlist with videos at Just Your Typical Book Blog
Music related teen fiction booklist from Newport Beach
Reading Rants: Deadheads and moshpits – books about being in a band

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