List-O-Rama: Let's Get Musical
This past week, I started and finished reading Jennifer Echols' July release, Dirty Little Secret (which is so, so good). I enjoyed so much about this book, but the stand-out element for me was the way music played such an important role in both the plot and in developing the characters.
I'm kind of a doofus when it comes to music: I play the ukulele poorly and was a flutist in marching band in high school until I quit band to protest the ill-fitting polyester pants. (That was super-effective.) Because of my musical doofusness, I really admire people for whom music is so ingrained in their lives. I realized that as a result of that, I tend to gravitate to novels featuring music or musical people. Sometimes, much like books featuring sports, the music is just window dressing, but when it's feels real, it's so very good.
Here are a twelve (!!!) of my recommendations for musically-infused novels you'll want to check out.
Adios to My Old Life & When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer
Caridad Ferrer is one of my favorite authors you're probably not reading. Both Adios to My Old Life and When the Stars Go Blue are infused with passion for music and the arts in general. (Interestingly, both of these could easily be considered thematically as "new adult.") Adios to My Old Life is focuses on an American Idol-style singing competition, while Stars follows the structure of the opera Carmen and features an incredible touring marching band.
Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
I just keep coming up with excuses to feature Melissa Walker's wonderful novel Lovestruck Summer, don't I? It's really that good. In the case of this novel, the main character's music snobbery actually limits her worldview. Letting go of that is key to her character growth, and for fueling her continued passion for music. (FYI: This one is pretty cheap right now, at $5 for the Kindle book and $6 for the paperback at Amazon.)
The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
Amy Spalding's debut, The Reece Malcolm List, is definitely poised to be one of my favorites of the year. The main character, Devan, is living in Los Angeles with the mother she never knew and finds her people at the performing arts high school she attends. Frankly, I don't particularly care for musicals, but Devan's passion for this type of performance is so contagious, it's hard not to love them while reading The Reece Malcolm List.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
I have mildly conflicted feelings about this book because despite having read nearly all of Nick Hornby's books, I held off reading High Fidelity because I'd enjoyed the movie version starring John Cusack aka Lloyd Dobbler so much. However, it's honestly a very good book about a music obsessed dude and different enough from the movie that I like and recommend it.
King Suckerman by George Pelecanos
George Pelecanos' novels are infused with popular culture references that never feel forced--instead, they're quite organic, and King Suckerman is one of my favorite examples of that. Featuring the music of the 1970s, King Suckerman is a pretty intense crime novel, but has a narrative that's less rigid than Pelecanos' later (and arguably, better) works.
Freefall by Mindi Scott
I recommend the hell out of Mindi Scott's debut novel, Freefall, which remains a favorite of both Laura and myself. Freefall follows Seth McCoy, teenage musician, as he copes with the grief and guilt about his best friend's death. Music and and a unusual girl help him find his way.
A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
Everyone (quite understandably) loves Graffiti Moon, but my first Cath Crowley novel was A Little Wanting Song (known as Chasing Charlie Dushkin in Australia) and as much as I love Graffiti Moon, A Little Wanting Song will always have a special place in my heart. This little novel (it's a single sitting read) explores grief, friendship, love and the transformative power of music, all wrapped up in Cath's beautiful prose. (Cheapo book alert: the hardback is only $6.80 on Amazon right now.)
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Laura's review of The Disenchantments perfectly articulates the specialness of Nina LaCour's novel about a girl band on its last road trip before college. It's a fantastic book about being young, growing up and the awesomeness of high school bands. (This is still one of our most popular reviews on CEFS, and there's a very good reason why.)
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I could have picked several Sarah Dessen novels to include in this post, but I chose This Lullaby because it often is overlooked amidst all the Dessen love, and I'm a sucker for an underdog. This one's about a girl, the song her father wrote about her, and the impulsive young musician who makes her reconsider a long-held "no musicians" rule.
Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
Obviously, I had to include an already-released titled from the woman whose book inspired this post. Fortunately, Jennifer Echols' Major Crush, about two dueling drum drum majors will leave you grinning and thinking marching band is for the cool kids. I usually don't like to describe books as "cute," but there's no other way to talk about this one--plus, the marching band details are spot on in so very many ways.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
I recommended Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution to Laura when we first met via Twitter because I knew she worked in music somehow (I didn't yet know she's a badass piano technician extraordinaire) because I figured she'd enjoy this unusual time-slip story about a contemporary girl and Revolution-era composer. The musical details are so precise that both of us had to Google to see if the composer was a real person (he's fictional).
I hope y'all enjoy these musically-themed recommendations!
As much as a music doofus as I am, I always love suggestions for books with this theme, so please share your recommendations in the comments.