The best YA books about girls who literally rock

Anna Hecker Author Of When the Beat Drops
By Anna Hecker

Who am I?

I was a painfully awkward teenager, two years younger than the rest of my class and a little too “extra” to fit in anywhere. I spent all of high school desperately seeking my weirdos—people who would accept me the way I was, rabid-puppy enthusiasm and all. One night I met a colorfully-dressed trio on the street who invited me to a loft party that changed my life. That night I fell in love with NYC’s underground party scene: the high-energy music, grimy locations, and most of all the people. I had found my weirdos. When the Beat Drops is my love letter to discovering your people and finding your scene. 


I wrote...

When the Beat Drops

By Anna Hecker,

Book cover of When the Beat Drops

What is my book about?

Seventeen-year-old Mira has always danced to her own beat. A music prodigy in a family of athletes, she’d rather play trumpet than party—and with her audition to a prestigious jazz conservatory just around the corner (and her two best friends at music camp without her), she plans to spend the summer focused on jazz and nothing else.

She only goes to the warehouse party in a last-ditch effort to bond with her older sister. Instead, she falls in love with dance music, DJing… and Derek, a gorgeous promoter who thinks he can make her a star. But when a devastating tragedy plunges her golden summer into darkness, Mira discovers just how little she knows about her new boyfriend, her old friends, and even her own sister. 

The books I picked & why

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The Midnights

By Sarah Nicole Smetana,

Book cover of The Midnights

Why this book?

This beautiful, lyrical book is a must-read for music lovers. It's a gorgeously written narrative set in a southern California wholly unlike the sun-drenched la-la-land portrayed in most movies and TV shows, a Los Angeles and Orange County filled with earthquakes and wildfires, blistering heat, and endless, dangerous rain. Like the weather in the book, the story is harsh and unrelenting: high school senior Susannah Hayes can't escape the pain of her former rock-star father's death or the need to solve the mystery of his life. At the same time she's discovering her own power as a musician, and making all the mistakes you'd expect a young girl ensconced in the world of indie music to make—mistakes with bands and boys, friends and family, truth, and lies.


Someday, Somewhere

By Lindsay Champion,

Book cover of Someday, Somewhere

Why this book?

I was dying to read this book because I'd heard it was structured after Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano, and even though it's not a piece I'm intimately familiar with I could almost hear the music as I read. Even though it's billed as a love story, it's not so much a typical romance as it is an ode to following your passions, listening to your heart, and falling in love with New York City...for the first time, or all over again. As a longtime New Yorker I found myself rediscovering the city through Dominique's eyes, and I even learned some cool NYC facts I'd never heard before (not going to spoil anything, but I listen to the subway in a whole new way now)! Highly recommended for anyone who loves music, New York, or lyrical writing about flawed but shimmering characters.


Noteworthy

By Riley Redgate,

Book cover of Noteworthy

Why this book?

Noteworthy is a pitch-perfect novel set in the elite a capella group of a selective performing arts boarding school. Undistinguished Alto 2 Jordan Sun disguises herself as a guy to land a spot in the all-male Sharpshooters a capella group, only to realize she has to keep up the act for the remainder of her Junior and Senior years. Hijinks ensue as Jordan finds herself questioning her identity, her sexuality, and her place in the world. The writing in this book is crisp and funny, and I enjoyed learning a bit about how a capella works. Most of all, I enjoyed watching Jordan become more sure of herself even as her ruse starts to wear thin. This is a light-hearted read with some heavier discussions of race, class, gender, and sexuality deftly woven throughout. If you like voice-driven music books as much as I do, add Noteworthy to your list. 


This Song Will Save Your Life

By Leila Sales,

Book cover of This Song Will Save Your Life

Why this book?

When I was pitching my book, I used this book as a comp: it’s like This Song Will Save Your Life, but at raves! There are definitely some similarities (credit to Leila Sales: hers came first). They both feature geeky girls, and Sales’ Elise Dembowski is one of the truest awkward-teen first-person voices I’ve ever read. They’re both set against the backdrop of underground music scenes, and the way Sales describes indie dance parties made me feel like I was back in the basement of NYC’s Lit trying to look cool while bopping around awkwardly to Joy Division. Both of our protagonists have weird relationships with older guys, and they both learn lessons that suck at the time but make them stronger. So is there room in the world for two girl-DJ books? Yes! Check out This Song Will Save Your Life and you’ll see exactly why. 


Kill the Boy Band

By Goldy Moldavsky,

Book cover of Kill the Boy Band

Why this book?

I’ve covered rock, classical, a capella, and new wave in my list, so I thought I’d round it out with sugar-sweet pop. Kill the Boy Band is a darkly hilarious journey into fangirl obsession filled with quirky characters and sitcom situations that are as fun to read as they are improbable. The boy band in question is The Ruperts, a quartet of British heart-throbs with an eerie resemblance to One Direction. When four superfans score a room in the hotel where The Ruperts are staying, they hatch a plan that goes awry fast, leaving the band with one fewer Ruperts and the girls with a…very incriminating situation.

I loved this book for so many reasons, but my favorite was the deep dive into superfan culture. A lot of the book is spent questioning the nature of this culture, but in a way that's genuinely soul-searching and not condescending—the narrator is way too into The Ruperts, but she’s also self-aware. This makes for some heavy relatability along with the hilarity: it’s the perfect book to take to the beach, or read between concerts and online stalking.


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