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No Earbuds Required: 5 Favorite Albums Reimagined As YA Novels

As any good writer knows, inspiration comes from everywhere. YA books frequently serve as the basis for all kinds of adaptations—movies, TV shows, even Broadway plays!—but what if things worked the other way around? Imagine some of the most beloved albums of our time turned into YA novels. Adele’s 19 would make for a gripping contemporary romance novel, telling the emotional story of a 19-year-old Brit experiencing her first heartbreak. And Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black? That dark album could serve as the foundation for an intimate look at a young adult struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. These (imagined) works would make for a truly immersive listening experience—no earbuds required.

1.) Troye Sivan – Blue Neighborhood

Troye Sivan’s debut album stands out for being an unapologetic pop album centered on queerness. Troye tells a clear story here: sharing the suffocating, angsty feelings of having big dreams—like kissing the boy!—in a small (minded) town. I could see a LGBTQIA+ YA novel set in the vast, green fields of suburban Australia (where Troye grew up). Our protagonist (maybe a queer MC as loveable as Gideon in Been Here All Along?) could be a closeted teen who finds himself, and a community, through vlogging. Along the way, he finds a love as grand and sweeping as Troye’s love songs. But the love is bittersweet and ephemeral, because our love interest is not yet ready to come out of the closet. The crushing heartbreak helps our MC find an even bigger and better person to love: himself.

2.) Taylor Swift – 1989

1989 is all about Taylor Swift living life on her own terms. She puts down her guitar and delights in the joys of young adulthood (boys, dancing, and late night car rides) and I’d love to see a book painting an even more vivid picture of this. And it’s only right the book takes place during, duh, 1989! The tone could be similar to girl-centric '80s paperback series like The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High. A serious approach to the highs and lows of being a young girl (with plenty of kissing, of course). First line of book? “Harry is totally rad….”

3.) Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill provides valuable life lessons on this R&B classic, which won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. On the record, Lauryn explores love, loss, young motherhood, poverty, and blackness. I could see the album’s interludes—which features an inner-city school classroom discussing love (so cute!)—serving as the basis for a multi-POV book. The '90s hip-hop scene of New York could be the novel’s backdrop. Perhaps our main character being an aspiring emcee who passes time in class by penning lyrics in her notepad.

4.) Adele – 19

I'm pitching this book as the first of a trilogy! 19 could introduce readers to a plus-size, British teenager struggling to hold on to her confidence after a romance reaches a sour end. A narrative poem format could be used here, to make the reading experience as lush and emotionally raw as Adele’s lyrics. The last scene could be directly inspired by the last song on 19, “Hometown Glory.” The song focuses on Adele walking around her hometown of West Norwood and basking in the memories—realizing how much of her self-identity is wrapped up in where she’s from, not who she’s with. The scene makes for the perfect coming of age conclusion.

5.) Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

Amy provides a major mood on this album and, therefore, it’s only right that it’s set in the 1920s. We’re imagining a Great Gatsby-esque feel. We open with our female MC—a character dangerously indulged in a decadent life—doing The Charleston in a roaring nightclub with a female-love interest named Valerie. What follows is an emotional story about the people in our MC’s life attempting to intervene and curb her partying and reckless behavior, to no avail. I envision a story as heartbreaking and sobering as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.

What albums would you love to see turned into YA novels, Swooners? Share your picks below!

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André W.

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