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Books that Rock

If you’ve ever made playlists for different moods, if you’ve gotten lost in playing an instrument for hours, or if nothing makes you more excited than discovering a new band, you have something in common with the characters of these books. While each of these books plays to a different beat, music is at the heart of this book playlist. 

  • Angel, Ann. Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. (2010) BIO JOP – New: Get to know music icon Janis Joplin in this lively biography, which follows the life of the rebellious musician from her early days in Texas to her rock and roll success and the sad truth of why her career was cut short. With pictures, timelines, and quotes, this isn’t only a book for Joplin fans, but for any older reader who loves music.
  • Benway, Robin. Audrey, Wait! (2008) YA BEN: After music-obsessed Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend, Evan, he writes a song about it…a song that soon becomes the most popular song in the country. Not too happy with her new celebrity status (and the fact that everything she does shows up on the Internet or in a magazine), Audrey must deal with the ins and outs of high school, exes, best friends, and boyfriends—all while dodging the paparazzi. (suited for mature readers)
  • Cohn, Rachel and David Levithan. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. (2006) YA COH: Nick is a bass guitar player who wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous; Norah is the daughter of a record executive who helps Nick get back at his ex. After pretending to be in a relationship, the two music fans begin an all-night adventure through New York City. This edgy and fast-paced novel is full of music and romance and is best suited for older teens.
  • Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen. (2006) YA DES: After Annabel hides the truth about what happened between her and her best friend’s boyfriend, she ends up friendless and alone. As she attempts to deal with some heavy issues all on her own, she becomes friends with Owen, an unpopular classmate with an amazing passion for music. Through their friendship and Owen’s love for music, Annabel learns about herself, friendship, and honesty.
  • John, Antony. Five Flavors of Dumb. (2010) YA JOH: Piper’s parents just used her college fund to pay for her sister’s cochlear implants, and Piper is not happy about it. Fueled by anger, she accepts a challenge and agrees to manage a popular rock band. What makes this challenge even greater? Piper is deaf. As she takes on this task, Piper learns about music, what it takes to make a successful rock band, and what it takes to be in a family.
  • Lindner, April. Jane. (2010) YA LIN: In this retelling of Jane Eyre, Jane is an orphaned student trying to pay for college. She takes a job as a nanny, oblivious to the fact that her employer is a has-been musician trying to make a comeback. This love story stays true to the original while still throwing in plenty of surprises and staying rooted in rock and roll culture.
  • Ostow, Micol. So Punk Rock (and other ways to disappoint your mother). (2009) YA OST: Ari is on a mission to be cooler, and part of his plan is to start a punk rock band with his best friend from Jewish Day School. With artwork scattered throughout the book, So Punk Rock follows the band’s ups and downs, friendships and romances in a witty, colorful way.
  • Sachar, Louis. Small Steps. (2006) YA SAC: If you loved Holes, you’ll love this sequel with a musical twist. Armpit is having a hard time adjusting to the world outside of Camp Green Lake, and things don’t get any easier when he joins X-Ray in a plan to get rich quick. X-Ray and Armpit find nothing but trouble when they start scalping concert tickets, but you’ll find yourself rooting for Armpit throughout the entire book.
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. After Tupac & D Foster. (2008) YA WOO: D Foster and her two best friends love Tupac Shakur’s music and lyrics—but they don’t know much about his life. This story about friendship and family follows the tragedy and hope connected to the rapper’s death as well as another event that hits even closer to home for one of the girls.