Boo, Banned Books; Yay, Band Books! 10 Books About the Power of Music

A List of 10 Books About the Power of Music

Pump Up The Volume

by REBECCA, September 25, 2013

So, it’s Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read/time when a number of people discuss the value of the books that a bunch of yahoos have banned. Scads of smart people have written about the issue of censorship; I wrote about it last year HERE, and Tessa wrote about it HERE. These are all valuable conversations to be having.

But rather than rehash what others have said, I’ll just keep it simple. There is no situation in which I think banning books is anything other than misguided, small-minded, ineffectual fascist fretting and I don’t have anything else to say about it. So, this year, I’m going to focus on the positive: there are some awesome books about how powerful and necessary a form of self-expression music is. This year, instead of banned books, I give you BAND BOOKS WEEK: a list of 10 Books About the Power of Music! All descriptions from Goodreads.

Sister Mischief by Laura GoodeSister Mischief by Laura Goode

“Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities—or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.” My review is HERE.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. GoingFat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

“Troy Billings is seventeen, 296 pounds, friendless, utterly miserable, and about to step off a New York subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Until he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, high school dropout guitar genius, the stuff of which Lower East Side punk rock legends are made. Never mind that Troy’s dad thinks Curt’s a drug addict and Troy’s brother thinks Troy’s the biggest (literally) loser in Manhattan. Soon, Curt has recruited Troy as his new drummer, even though Troy can’t play the drums. Together, Curt and Troy will change the world of punk, and Troy’s own life, forever.” My review is HERE

If I Stay by Gayle FormanIf I Stay by Gayle Forman

“Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.” It’s music that brings Mia back to life and music that she lives for.

The sequel, Where She Went, is told from Mia’s boyfriend Adam’s perspective. “It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.”

Just Listen by Sarah DessenJust Listen by 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.”

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-MillsBeautiful Music For Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

“‘This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.’ My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life. When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side–not heard as often, but just as good. It’s time to let my B side play.” Beautiful Music For Ugly Children gets an automatic Band Books Week bump for being about a radio show and therefore being associated with Pump Up the Volume’s Hard Harry! My full review is HERE.

War For the Oaks by Emma BullWar For the Oaks by Emma Bull

“Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point. By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaksis a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one. It’s about real love and loyalty, about real music and musicians, about false glamour and true art. It will change the way you hear and see your own daily life.” My full review is HERE.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony JohnFive Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

This one’s about the power of music even for someone who can’t hear it. “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? Piper can’t hear Dumb’s music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.” Tessa’s full review is HERE.

The Lucy Variations by Sara ZarrThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lest we forget about classical music: “Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain. That was all before she turned fourteen. Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?”

Lament Books of Faerie #1 by Maggie StiefvaterBooks of Faerie series, Maggie Steifvater

Book one is Lament. “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. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen’s sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren’t so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn’t exactly what she had in mind . . .” My full review is HERE.

Ballad Books of Faerie by Maggie StiefvaterBook two is Ballad. “In this mesmerizing sequel to Lament, music prodigy James Morgan has joined his best friend, Deirdre, at a private conservatory for musicians. James’ almost unearthly gift for music has attracted the dangerous attentions of Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together leads James and Nuala down an unexpected road of mutual admiration …and love. Haunted by a vision of raging fire and death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soulscorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives.” My full review is HERE.

Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys Weetzie Bat #3 by Francesca Lia BlocCherokee Bat and The Goat Guys (Weetzie Bat #3) by Francesca Lia Block

“Once there was a slink-chunk, slam-dunk band called The Goat Guys. Cherokee Bat danced and sang. Witch Baby, Cherokee’s almost-sister, pounded the beat on her drums. Raphael played the guitar, and Angel Juan kept the rhythm on his bass. They made music that sparkled like fireworks, and audiences loved them. But with success came power, and power was a dangerous thing. Cherokee and The Goat Guys were swept up in it-and soon it was threatening to destroy them. Until Cherokee realized that it was up to her to save them all . . .” This is the third in the Weetzie Bat series and it totally stands on its own!

BONUS Francesca Lia Block duo that has music at its core: Ecstasia and Primavera.

Ecstasia by Francesca Lia BlockEcstasia: “Siblings Calliope and Rafe, along with Dionisio and Paul, are Ecstasia—the most popular band in Elysia, a city of jewels and feathers, of magic and music, where the only crime is growing old. Then Calliope’s visions take her to Under, where the Old Ones go to die, and where her parents had vanished long ago. Rafe joins her there, in search of the Doctor, who can bring back the dead to ease their loved ones’ broken hearts. And that is when rapture turns to nightmare.”

Primavera by Francesca Lia BlockPrimavera: “From the very moment she was born, Primavera’s songs made water flow and flowers blossom. She brought new life to the desert where her family lives. But even in Paradise there are dreams that cannot be fulfilled. Primavera is in love with a man who can never be hers–so when a handsome stranger offers her the gift of a horse-headed motorcycle, Primavera leaves home in search of the magical city of Elysia. But in Elysia, Primavera discovers that she has left behind everything she truly needs, everyone she truly cares about—and, if the city has its way, she will never find her way back home.”

Happy Band Books Week, my lovely readers. Tell me about your favorite musical YA reads in the comments. TALK HARD!



  1. This is SUCH an awesome way to celebrate Banned Books Week. Also, it makes me think a lot about Girls Rock Camp, an international music program that’s all about empowering girls and gender non-conforming kids through rock and roll! They are all on it with the power of music…

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