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There are a lot of YA books that feature music. This might be the theme of the book or it might be a motif within the book. It could also be what introduces each chapter or a playlist that comes at the end of the book or as a bonus feature as part of the book’s marketing campaign. And then there’s my absolute favorite way we get music in YA books: through their titles. Welcome to another annual edition of YA book title earworms, this time for 2023.
If you’re scratching your head over what an earworm is, I promise you know what it is. It’s that song which gets stuck in your head and won’t get out. I remember a summer camp legend that, whatever your current earworm is, you can get it out by singing “It’s a Small World” to yourself…knowing once you sing that to yourself, it becomes an earworm itself (and you’ll fall into that Groundhog Day-esque loop).
I’ve been highlighting these YA book title earworms for half a decade now, and I love how they tell a few stories. They highlight nostalgia, they highlight contemporary interests, and they can sometimes even identify a song that is defining in an unexpected way. Let’s take a look at what 2023 YA book titles have to offer us as a soundtrack this year, with a note that because we don’t know yet every book hitting shelves in the coming year, this list is by default incomplete. In some cases, the song and book title are identical and in some cases, you’ll catch part of the song’s chorus as the book’s title. The song may have absolutely nothing to do with the book or story or its inspiration…or it might be quite central to it.
You’ll get the book, it’s description, and, of course, its accompanying song.
As You Walk On By by Julian Winters (1/17/23)
The Breakfast Club is going to be a theme in 2023, as Winters’s book is not the only one on this list drawing inspiration — and an earworm — from ’80s classics.
Seventeen year old Theo thinks he’s got it all figured out for the future. But for now? He’s putting his efforts into having the best prom ever, with plans for an epic promposal to his crush at a party. When it goes devastatingly wrong, Theo hides out in a room above where the party is happening. One by one, classmates who are hoping to avoid something are entering the room, and maybe Theo learns he’s not as lonely as he fears he might be.
Obviously, the song for this one is “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
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Every Time You Go Away by Abigail Johnson (12/5/23)
Ethan and Rebecca have been in and out of each other’s lives for years. When Ethan’s mom’s addiction gets bad, he lives with his grandparents, who are neighbors with Rebecca. There’s always been something between them.
It’s been three years since Ethan last stayed with his grandparents, and he’s taken on a role as his mom’s caretaker — something he sees this stint with his grandparents tearing him away from. Rebecca is reeling from the sudden loss of her father in a car accident, which left her learning how to be a wheelchair user.
Is the time right now? Or have their lives changed too much for love?
You’re singing “Everytime You Go Away” by Paul Young right now.
Friday, I’m In Love by Camryn Garrett (1/10/23)
Mahalia Harris wants big. She’s itching for a party, something like her best friend’s outrageous sweet 16. But it’s too late for that…so what if instead, she throws an over-the-top coming out party (and maybe even catches the eye of her crush, Siobhan)?
If you love romcoms, hardworking characters, and queer love, you’re in for a win here.
The Cure has gotchu, friends.
Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko (5/30/23)
Is it cheating to include a book that is based on a song by the person who did the song? I don’t even care. There’s no cover yet for Kiyoko’s debut YA novel.
Coley is living in rural Oregon after a move following the sudden death of her mother. She’s fragile, alone, and sad. As much as she’s immediately attracted to Sonya, Coley is too worried she’s not ready for love.
Sonya, who has never been with a girl before, is also nervous. Can the two of them overcome their fears and allow themselves to feel something real and true?
Made of Stars by Jenna Voris (3/28/23)
Looking for a Bonnie and Clyde inspired title? Here you go.
Shane and Ava are a crime duo. He’s stolen a plane and she’s used her charm for their survival. But when Shane is caught and imprisoned then manages to escape, he’s ready to take on their biggest job.
Cyrus, fresh in the role of reporting to the general after flight academy, is just about to catch Shane. It’d be a huge point in his favor, except he’s distracted by Ava.
Armed with knowledge of a plan to destroy his and Ava’s homes, Shane knows they have to ward off Cyrus and his military leaders. Now the stakes — and heists — are on overdrive.
Now, have some “We Are All Made of Stars” by Moby. I don’t think it fits the mood of the book, but it does share a title!
Make The Fireflies Dance by Rachel Bateman (5/16/23)
Quincy is kissed by a guy in a dark movie theater, setting her hopelessly romantic heart ablaze. Problem? She has no idea who it was. Her friends come to the rescue, suggesting she be set up on dates with every guy who was at the theater that night. Blind dates, specifically. Where Quincy pictured the perfect ending to senior year at prom, she’s not finding the mystery kisser through this experiment.
But maybe that doesn’t matter as she begins falling for someone who isn’t the one she’s trying to find.
Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” was the song for all of my middle school dances and it kind of hurts me to say this song came out in 1997. Today’s teens were born well after this.
Pieces of Me by Kate McLaughlin (4/18/23)
When Dylan wakes up in an apartment she doesn’t recognize, surrounded by people she doesn’t recognize, despite her mind believing everything is okay, she begins to flip.
Turns out, Dylan has been missing for three days.
This is a raw and powerful look at Dissociative Identity Disorder and how it impacts those who experience it.
It’s likely not in the same tone or tenor of the book, but in any case, this one gets Ashlee Simpson’s “Pieces of Me” spinning.
What a Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan (7/18/23)
Mehar and her mother moved to the U.S. from India when she was 4, and Mehar has not been back since. Her estranged father is getting remarried now, and Mehar agrees (reluctantly) to attend the wedding. It might help her find some closure in their fractured relationship.
It doesn’t, not really, though it does introduce Mehar to her grandmother’s assistant Sufiya, and the two of them might be catching some mutual feelings.
Things are going to get much more complicated, though, when Mehar realizes her father’s new wife and stepdaughter are using him for money and she confronts him about it.
It’s not a perfect match, obviously, but “What a Girl Wants” by Christina Aguilera comes immediately into my head.
When You Wish Upon a Star by Elizabeth Lim (4/4/23)
Is this one too easy? Yes. This book is part of the popular Twisted Tales series from Disney.
If you’re looking for a twist to Pinocchio, then you’ll want Lim’s tale of The Blue Fairy on your TBR.
With or Without You by Eric Smith (2023)
There’s not a date yet for the next Eric Smith book, but it’s projected for fall of next year. It’s a story of two teens whose families run rivaling cheesesteak shops in south Philadelphia. The rivalry is a ploy, though, to amp up sales, so when a reality TV show gets ahold of the story, the two teens have to not only play along…but pretend they’re not falling hard for one another.
Could the title better encapsulate the story, as sung by U2?