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I played the flute when I was a kid. It was an illustrious career. We held concerts for our parents, and gathered at the local train station to serenade commuters during the Christmas holidays.

My entire musical education was garnered through my public school. The music teacher taught me how to read notes, tap my foot, follow the conductor, and it was all free. And while my career might have been short-lived, for many kids, it’s life saving. This is why Music in Our Schools Month is so important. And to celebrate the holiday this March, why not enjoy some YA novels that demonstrate just how important music is for teenagers (and everyone else).

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway: If you want to laugh (and who doesn’t?), pick up this book. It’ll have you cackling so much, you’ll be embarrassed to read it in public. The premise is classic: you know that song “Jenny, 867-5309”? Now, imagine you’re Jenny.

When Audrey Cuttler dumps her boyfriend, Evan, he writes a breakup song about her that becomes a number-one hit. Suddenly, paparazzi are on her tail and Audrey is propelled into tabloid infamy, until she confronts Evan live on MTV and lets the world know exactly who she is.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going: This Printz Honor Book follows a 296-pound teen named Troy, who’s on the verge of suicide until he meets a homeless, high school dropout guitar genius, who introduces him to the drums. Together, they change the world of punk, and Troy’s life forever. It’s a moving tale about the powerful positive effect music can have on people, especially teens, who often feel painfully misunderstood.

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert: I don’t know much about punk music, but I do know great book titles, and this one is as amazing at the story within.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Patti Smith. The Ramones. All are celebrated throughout the novel as Emily Black tries to hunt down the mother who left her at four months old to follow a band. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own that she hopes will draw her mother home. It’s an edgy and emotional tale for the Riot Grrrl in you.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: You probably know of the movie, starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, and even if you’ve seen it, the original novel is still worth a read. Nick is nursing a broken heart. Norah is questioning all of her assumptions about the world. And all they have in common is their taste in music.  The New York Times bestseller celebrates New York's indie rock scene as the couple hunt down a private show with their favorite band. It’s an epic night in music fandom.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: Where would the Fresh Prince be without DJ Jazzy Jeff? Or Salt-N-Pepa without Spinderella? DJs have a musical passion all their own, at least that’s what Elise Dembowski discovers when she stumbles into her first rave. An outcast all her life, Elise is ready to give up on friendship entirely until she meets a band of friends at a warehouse party and discovers her love for DJing. It’ll make you want to bust out some turntable and give them a spin.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez: If classical music is more your scene, dip into the dark side of teen performers as Type-A Carmen’s passion for the violin leaves her dependent on antianxiety drugs. She’s so focused on winning that she struggles to realize she’s falling in love with her rival. The book gives a realistic look into a high-strung teen musician on the edge of a major fall. 


Diana R. Wallach's picture

Diana R. Wallach

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix series, three YA spy thrillers that begin with PROOF OF LIES (Entangled Publishing, 2017). She is also the author of the award-winning Amor and Summer Secrets series (Kensington Books); the Mirror, Mirror short story collection (Buzz Books); and essays in both Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins) and Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books). She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, and is a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two kids.