Top Ten Music-Themed Young Adult Books


First things first: this isn’t really a top ten list as much as it is just a list of ten. Unfortunately I had to make some concessions to fill all empty spots, but like anything else, tastes are plenty subjective and I’m sure some of you would agree (and disagree) with my picks. 😛

From Beethoven to Black Eyed Peas, Dvorak to Death Cab for Cutie, Tchaikovsky to Taylor Swift, here are ten young adult novels to do with music!

1) If I Stay – Gayle Forman

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

This book kind of floats the concept of life and death but packages it in a YA way. It’s kind of sad. It’s kind of heartbreaking. And the main character is a music prodigy on track to go to the best music school. 😛

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Is it to cliche if I choose Say Something by A Great Big World? Just overall a sad, somber song.

2) Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store. This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

This book is one of the best coming-of-age YA books I’ve ever read to this day. The characters are flawed and so relatable, the relationships well-developed, and the plot perfectly executed. And you know that classic where couples make mixtapes for each other to listen to? This book has it, you guys! ❤

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Thank You by Dido. An oldie, maybe, but really reflects Owen and Annabel’s relationship. He’s just so, so good to her!

3) This Lullaby – Sarah Dessen

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

Is it cheating to include Dessen twice? I certainly hope not! The blurb makes it sound like a simple love story, but honestly it’s quite a bit more than that. Also, Dexter is in a band and they write songs about potatoes.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Miss Independent by Ne Yo. Remy is so proud of her not needing anyone, and it shows.

4) Five Flavors of Dumb – Antony John

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band’s manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she’s deaf?

Yes to a protagonist who works really hard to push herself out of her comfort zone. And yes to a rock band called ‘Dumb’.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Wings by Birdy. I feel like this is a song about overcoming obstacles, and there are definitely some obstacles in this book.

5) This Song Will Save Your Life – Leila Sales

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

I read this book several years ago and in full disclosure, I don’t actually have much recollection of it, but I remember enjoying its foray into the DJ-ing world. 😛

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: This is (semi?) instrumental but Punga by Klingande. The perfect mixture of beats, and just what I think a good, upbeat yet simple song sounds like.

6) Hello, I Love You – Katie M. Stout

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start. She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame.

I did not like Hello, I Love You. The main character is extremely culturally ignorant and often judgmental, and her love interest–a Korean pop star–is a rude, egoistical jerk who is so hot and cold, I really want him to either permanently stay or permanently leave. No in-betweens.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: The first song that comes to mind is Taeyang’s I Need a Girl, although I do like that song much better than this book. But let’s face it, Jason is pretty codependent.

7) Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises.

Eleanor and Park, two teenagers who are also ‘misfits’ at their school, bond over Joy Division and school bus rides. This book is like the ‘indie song’ of books, if you ask me. 😛

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Bloom by The Paper Kites, for that lovely feeling when you’re just falling in love.

8) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City–and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

Levithan and Cohn’s writing, when put together, has always been more of a miss than a hit for me, but the movie for this book is generally quite cute.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys for that majestic NYC feel.

9) Melophobia – James Morris

Melophobia: fear or hatred of music.

The time: now; the place: America, but in a world where the government controls all forms of art and creativity. Any music sowing the seeds of anarchy is banned, destroyed if found, its creators and listeners harshly punished.

Merrin Pierce works as an undercover Patrol officer assigned to apprehend a fugitive musician who threatens the safe fabric of society, only to confront everything she thought to be true – her values, upbringing, job, and future.

Melophobia takes the world as we know it but erases all shreds of music. No one can create music except for the government, and no one can listen to anything but government-mandated music. For a self-published book, this one actually surprised me with how well-plotted it is.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Worse than the destruction in this book, but it’s pretty bad.

10) Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception – Maggie Stiefvater

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician.

She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin.

Stiefvater’s lesser-known (and lesser-liked) book, Lament is generally enjoyable, though I’ve seen it mentioned as the faerie version of Twilight.

RECOMMENDED SOUNDTRACK: Seven Devils by Florence + The Machine, for when everything is terrifying.

What do you think of these books and songs? What’s on your TTT this week? Let me know in the comments or leave me a link to your post! 

33 thoughts on “Top Ten Music-Themed Young Adult Books

  1. I had forgotten all about the music connection to some of these books. Well done! Eleanor & Park is a particular fav off this list and I definitely need to start reading Sarah Dessen. She is just everywhere it seems. 🙂


  2. I’m such a fan of Nick & Norah. I feel like anything by the Hush Sound would fit the book. If I had to pick one, I’d go with city traffic puzzle. I like this take on the topic this week. I’m kind of wishing I had done it. Oh well.


      • This is true! But then it’d throw off my schedule and it’d be this whole big thing….;) jk.

        I’m still not sure what I think of the movie. I read the book specifically to watch the movie. I enjoyed the book better, but the movie had its moments. Michael Cera wouldn’t have been my first choice for Nick.


  3. Nice pairing! Say Something is a good pick for If I Stay…it does bring out the emotion of the book 👍 Not cheating of they’re two different books and two different songs 😁 I think I should look into some of Sarah Dessen’s work…she must have been good enough for you to post two of her work!


  4. What a lovely list – I love how you format your top tens, they look so beautiful. 🙂 I’ve not heard a lot of these songs (or, indeed, read a lot of the books in question) so now I’ve got a whole bunch of new recommendations from this which are much appreciated.


  5. Seven Devils is probably my favourite Florence + the Machine song, honestly you’ve made me want to read Lament now just because of your song choice 😀
    Also yay Imagine Dragons, and also Just Listen, that’s definitely my favourite Sarah Dessen book 🙂
    Great picks for this week!


    • I actually barely remember Lament, to be honest with you! I remember reading it and I remember enjoying it back then, but I have no idea if I’ll enjoy it today. 😛

      Just Listen is also my favourite Sarah Dessen book! It was also my first one, haha — I just love how decent the main guy is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series so I should probably give some more of her books a read (though I wasn’t too keen on Shiver TBH) but Lament sounds good so I may give it a try 🙂
        It was the first one I read as well 😀 and the book that made me fall in love with her works; she writes such amazing characters. I remember telling all my friends they had to read it as soon as I’d finished.


        • I actually liked Stiefvater’s writing in Shiver, but not the characters or the plot. The Ravel Cycle completely turned that over because then I felt she also had the characters and plot right. I would say that Lament was one of her earlier works so it wasn’t as original and developed as the others, though. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • TBH I read Shiver so long ago I can’t remember if I liked her writing or not, I just remember overall not rating the story very high. It seems like her work just gets better and better the more books she releases (on a kind of unrelated note I am so excited for The Raven King to be released). Well hopefully I’ll enjoy Lament, it seems like the kind of book I’d enjoy going by the blurb 😀


  6. This Song Would Save Your Life and If I Stay were amazing. TSWSYL in particular is one of my all time favorite books, and I love your pick for the song to go with it! 😀 But oh man. Hello, I Love You was not at all my book. I couldn’t handle it. It was so nooooo whyyy. I do love some of Taeyang’s songs though. Great list!

    – Eli @ The Silver Words // #commenting365
    My TTT:


  7. Confession, I have yet to read a Sarah Dessen book. I feel like I’ve heard so many good things about them that I can’t help but feel like my expectations are too high haha.
    I really want to read This Song Will Save Your Life. I’m told the characters in that book are well developed. 😀


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