Saturday, March 28, 2009

Music and YA

I've read several YA (Young Adult) novels in the last year that have a strong focus on music. The most recent was Audrey, Wait!, by Robin Benway. I get the connection with teens and music. At that age (I can't believe I'm old enough to use that expression!), I was obsessed with music, too. I knew all the lyrics, all the band names, the title of every song on the radio. These days, not so much. Other, much less interesting stuff has filled up all that brain space.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I understand the connection between youth and music, and why music was such an important part of these books. Unfortunately, incorporating music into a book is a tricky thing, and nine times out of ten, it doesn't work for me. Music is sound. No matter how moving the lyric is, it can't give you the feeling of the song. In Audrey, Wait! we heard all about how amazing this song was, but I wanted to feel it, to hear it myself. And in a book you just can't do that. Every chapter started with a couple lines of song lyrics, mostly by bands I'd vaguely heard of but wouldn't know if I tripped over them. (Apparently, I'm not quite the hip 30-something I thought I was.) Out of the dozens and dozens of music references in the book, I recognized only two or three.

I realize that I'm not the target audience for Audrey, Wait!, Nick + Norah's Infinite Playlist, Adios to My Old Life, and other books like them. Those references are a lot more meaningful when you know the songs. But they also contain lyrics invented specifically for the book. There is no song to listen to. So in the case of Audrey, where this song is so important to the whole book (the title Audrey, Wait! is also the name of a song that becomes massively popular and changes the main character's life), it loses a little something for me. I keep hearing about this song, but what I really want is to hear the song. I want to jump around and dance with the characters. But I can't. Because it's just a book and there is no song.

That's one of very few ways that reading falls short for me. A good author can take me just about anywhere you can imagine. Except when there's music involved.

1 comment:

  1. I know your pain BM, I uttered a phrase the other day I swore never to use. It was one of my fathers. The phrase:
    "What is this cr@p on the radio?"

    I too used to think I was still up there with the music until I realised that I still consider Nirvana's Nevermind album as fairly recent. (Even better when you know the baby has just had his 18th birthday.)

    Arrgghhhh the agony.


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