Pairing Music with YA Lit: “My True Love Gave to Me” Edition (Part 1)

The holidays and romance?  I didn’t think the two would necessarily go together.  I mean, what’s romantic about the stress of the most over-commercialized time of year?  (I apparently need to watch Love, Actually a few more times…)  But after reading My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins, I’m a holiday romance convert.  In this collection of short stories, YA authors illustrate how the holidays can be a time of first love, caring, and sometimes even a little magic.

my true love gave to me

And now I totally see it. Curling up next to that special someone by the fireplace.  Red cheeks; not just from the cold.  The perfect gift–one that symbolizes how much you care about the other person–which might not cost a thing.

So, this time I’m pairing music to each of the stories in “My True Love Gave to Me”. This first post it will include the first six stories, and in January, the final six.

“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Mags met Noel on New Year’s Eve–saved him from eating some pesto with tree nuts that would cause a dire allergic reaction; they instantly became best friends.  Though she denies her feelings, Mags wants more than their best friendship. Which is why every year on their friendiversary, at midnight, it hurts her as she watches him kiss someone else.  So this year, she makes an excuse to leave the party just before midnight.  That way she doesn’t have to see Noel kiss someone else and have her heart broken again.

Musical Pairing: Noel is always asking Mags to dance with him–he loves to dance in public; she doesn’t–so Ke$ha’s “Only Wanna Dance with You” is my pairing for this short story (I only want to dance with you/ Whatever I got to do). It also has a New-Year’s-Eve-dancing-on-the-coffee-table vibe which is where Noel likes to show off his dance moves.

“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link

Summary: With her mom in prison, Miranda instead spends the holidays with the wealthy and beautiful Honeywells.  At an early age, she notices one of the group standing outside in the snow, a man than never joins the party.  She keeps watch for him throughout the years, at every Honeywell Christmas gathering, and finds that he only appears when it snows and never goes inside.  As Miranda reaches the age he never outgrows, she starts to fall in love with the man, with Fenny–even though she can only see once a year. But she has a plan to change that.

Musical pairing: I’m choosing “Fidelity” for this story.  Regina Spektor’s words show how Miranda feels when it’s not snowing; when she doesn’t get to see Fenny (Suppose I never ever met you/ Suppose we never fell in love/ Suppose I never ever let you/ Kiss me so sweet and so soft).  Maybe she’d be happier if she hadn’t met him, hadn’t fallen for him. But if she hadn’t, would she know love?  (I never loved nobody fully/ Always one foot on the ground).

“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena

Summary: Shy is far away from home, at NYU on a full scholarship, and can’t join his family in San Diego.  Instead, to save the trip money, Shy cat-sits for his boss over the holidays.  A blizzard traps him in the apartment with no food (and no money to get food).  Shy is hungry and alone in the giant apartment building–or so he thinks. Haley, from the apartment above, happens by, needing help with her frozen plumbing.  The two start spending time together and as the days pass, end up saving each other.

Musical Pairing: I think that Dire Straights’ “Romeo and Juliet” works for this story.  Shy and Haley lead two very different lives, and though Shy tries to deny his connection with her, he finds himself waiting for her; hoping she’ll keep visiting him.  He quickly becomes a “Lovestruck Romeo.”

“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han

Summary: It’s difficult to have a love life when you are the only human in the North Pole–and the boss’ adopted daughter.  And the elves still see her as a little girl, as an outsider.  And Natalie fears that Flynn–her elf crush–feels the same way.

Musical pairing:  Natalie’s life is the North Pole–the magic that happens there.  But since she is human, what would happen if she chose not to believe?  So, more for the titles than the lyrics, I’m pairing this story with: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “Do You Believe in Magic?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.

“It’s a Yuletide Miracle Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins

Summary:  Marigold needs North’s voice.  She hears it every time she passes by the Christmas tree lot next to her apartment. It’s perfect as a voiceover for her new video; an animation that will be both her mom’s winter solstice gift and her ticket out of town.  But to ask him to be a part of her project, she needs to get the courage to speak with him first.  When she does, instead of the question she wants to ask, she buys a tree (a “Charlie Brown”), and North insists on carrying it up to the apartment for her.  In doing so, she finds that North is full of surprises.

Musical Pairing:  This short story has a great build up to Marigold and North’s first kiss.  You want it to happen throughout the whole story and when it happens it’s like… “And Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals.  A powerful punch of a chorus that you can’t help singing along to, and wait out the verses to hear again.

“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan

Summary: The narrator, who is unnamed, is requested to be Santa by his boyfriend, Connor, to helps his little sister remain a Santa believer.  He dresses up as Santa, fakes putting presents under the tree, and makes sure Connor’s sister believes for another year.  As he does all of this for Connor, he realizes that he has fallen in love.

Musical pairing:  I’m pairing this short story with Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment” (I’m falling even more in love with you/ Letting go of all I’ve held on to/ I’m standing here until you make me move/ I’m hanging by a moment here with you).  Another Lifehouse song also works: “First Time” because, as the unnamed narrator finds, it’s scary to fall in love for the first time (Looking at you, holding my breath/ For once in my life,I’m scared to death/ I’m taking a chance, letting you inside).

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.  What songs would you pair with these stories?

And don’t forget to look for my musical pairings for the rest of the stories in My True Love Gave to Me on the Hub in January.


— Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

One thought on “Pairing Music with YA Lit: “My True Love Gave to Me” Edition (Part 1)”

  1. My True Love Gave to Me was my favorite YA book of 2014. I think I’ve read it 5 times by now. The audio edition is excellent; each story has a different narrator. It would be really cool to have these musical choices integrated into the audio edition. I’m totally going to listen to Don’t Stop Believing after I listen to Polaris, and Lifehouse after Temporary Santa. Can’t wait to see your choices for the rest of the book!

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