There is something amazingly nostalgic about listening to music of decades past. Something about listening to 90s grunge, 80s rap, or 200’s emo that is soothing to the soul. It seems that more and more YA titles are being released that incorporate music genres of days gone by and I for one am HERE FOR IT! Here’s a few to get you started and check out the list at the bottom for even more titles focused on music genres of the past.
Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
Get your tissues out because this one has all the feels. Like A Love Story takes place during the height of the AIDS Crisis in New York City. It’s told from alternating views of three narrators. One character is a straight female designer whose uncle is dying of AIDS. The second narrator is a proud young gay man who is out and has supportive parents. The third main character is a young Iranian-born man who knows that he’s gay, but is terrified of AIDS and of letting down his mom. The action is paced around their relationships, their reactions to the fear and misinformation, and the crisis around AIDS.
This is a very character driven story that rotates around each characters relationships, the AIDS crisis and is woven around a soundtrack of Madonna’s greatest hits, which drives home the feeling of the late 80s for an added oomph of high emotional impact.
Bonus points: Like A Love Story has a great audio narrator too!
Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
2008, Emo Music.
Morgan is a 17-year-old Black girl stuck in small-town suburbia. She is in therapy for depression and anxiety. Morgan’s always been the outsider and feels like her song doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. She is constantly trying to stay unique while dealing with boys who only like white girls and a family struggling to understand her mental illness.
This is an honest book that has a meandering plot. It jogs through the difficulty of overwhelming feelings and not fitting in. The story unapologetically tackles issues of racism, mental heath and rigid family dynamics. The back of the book also reveals it to be autobiographical, which lends extra authenticity.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Quadir and Jarrell live in Brooklyn and are on the cusp of… something. After their friend Steph is killed, they enlist his little sister Jasmine in a plan to release Steph’s unpublished beats under a new rap name: The Architect. Along the way the trio begins to unfold the mystery of their murdered friend as well as the truth of themselves.
The author, Tiffany Jackson, described this book as “a love letter to Brooklyn” and she was absolutely right. You can really tell from her writing that she loves living there and that love translates into a vibrant setting. Just expect the unexpected in general while reading this one.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme is rife with nostalgic hip-hop, authentic communities and wonderfully flawed characters.