September: The summer heat gives way to sweater mornings, t-shirt afternoons, and hoodie evenings. The leaves begin to turn into the firey oranges, reds, and yellows that might only last for a few weeks, or if we’re lucky, a whole month before the snow sets in (at least in my part of the country). It’s the beginning of a new season and a new school year, which for many high school seniors is the start of the college application process; of finding a school that will soon become home. Essays. Scholarship applications. Dreaded “We regret to inform you…” letters. Acceptance packets. Safety schools. Major declarations. And, often, LOTS of pressure from friends, parents, or even themselves. Luckily, there are some great books to help us all through this stressful time. So here are some of my favorite off-to-college novels, paired with music that connects to each one. Of course, not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so this is my interpretation–”Under Pressure” style.
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (2015)
Summary: Skylar is finally fulfilling her dream of getting out of Creek View. She has a full scholarship to art school and is ready to take off to San Francisco, ready to leave behind the small town she grew up in. She just has to get through the summer. But after graduation, Skylar’s mother is a downhill slide (again) after losing her job, and Skylar feels the need to stay and take care of her. And then there is Josh. He used to be a giant jerk, a player, kind of a douchebag, but coming home from Afghanistan has changed him. Both physically as he lost his leg, and mentally, as he is dealing with the aftermath of war. Throughout the summer, Skylar and Josh grow together, becoming friends instead of work acquaintances, and falling in love one day at a time. Skylar is left wondering if it’s not only her mother she feels compelled to stay for, but Josh as well.
Musical pairings: There are a lot of artists referenced in “I’ll Meet You There”, providing it’s own soundtrack. But as I read this book, there are two songs that immediately stuck out to me: Dan Black’s “Symphonies” featuring Kid Cudi and “Sometimes” by Sound of Guns. I connected “Symphonies” to Skylar to describe her desire to leave Creek View (Gimme, gimme, symphonies/Gimme more than the life I see), but also connected it to how she feels different than the other girls in her town, how she knows she is meant to do more with her life than work at the Paradise motel (I live, I live, I live, I live for symphonies/I know that there’s some place just right for me). “Sometimes” is the song that reminds me of Josh as he is trying to find his place back in Creek View, at first trying to be the same Josh he was before he joined the Marines, before he lost his leg (When your mind aches, pupils dilate/Give me some alcohol to stop me growing older). The same Josh that knows his place is in the small town (Oh oh oh, I was born here and I’ll die here), and knows everything about his neighbors (Oh oh oh, see for miles and miles around here, Oh oh oh, every violence, every silence).