My favorite movie of 2018 was Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled to see it, and Rami Malek, win awards, but, as interesting as Freddy Mercury’s story is, I find Queen guitarist Brian May’s story equally as interesting. Not only is he one of the world’s greatest guitarists, he built his own guitar and has a PhD in astrophysics. Although he is now in his 70s he still plays and recently released a new single, “New Horizons”, to celebrate the space probe of the same name as it flew past Ultima Thule, the farthest object in the solar system that a spacecraft has visited. Brian May might be described as a Renaissance Man and I wondered are there Renaissance Teens who might be inspired by these books I think reflect aspects of Brian May’s life?
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Set in the same period in which Queen was at its height, The Scar Boys is the story of Harry, scarred after bullies tied him to a tree during a lightning storm. The band he formed in 8th grade is the vehicle for his healing and he encourages The Scar Boys to go on tour. A coming of age story with a punk rock twist,
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Bands form and fall apart. So do friendships. Brian May & Freddy Mercury. Colby and Bev. At the end of their senior year, Colby and Bev embark on a road trip with her all-girl band before embarking on a trip to Europe instead of going to college like everyone else. Or so Colby thought. The soundtrack for the trip includes The Supremes, The Runaways, Heart, and Sleater-Kinney, but the journey is full of betrayal, confusion, and wonder.
Freddy & Me: A Coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody by Mike Dawson
This black-and-white graphic memoir explores Dawson’s lifelong obsession with Queen.
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
It has been noted that Brian May bears a remarkable resemblance to Isaac Newton. Like Newton, May is a scientist who studied Math and physics. Teen readers might enjoy learning more about May’s doppelganger.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurray by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Brian May abandoned his PhD program in 1974 to pursue his music career, but resumed it in 2006, and was awarded his PhD in 2007. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book can reveal the mysteries of the universe to busy teens.
Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
By virtue of his fame and academic credentials, Brian May was invited to NASA to look at some of the first images of Pluto. He was also named a New Horizons science collaborator. Teens can go behind-the-scenes in Chasing New Horizons to learn the science, politics, egos, and public expectations that shaped the New Horizons’ mission to Pluto and beyond.
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
With a PhD thesis entitled, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud this book – and Philip Pullman’s entire His Dark Materials series – seems an obvious choice for Brian May and his fans. Zodiacal dust is the cosmic dust found between planets. Pullman’s Dust is an elementary particle with consciousness that humans can see with an Amber Spyglass and communicate with using an alethiometer.
Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The lives of Adri, Catherine, and Lenore are intertwined across time. In 2065, orphan Adri is preparing to go to Mars, where she will work to create a livable extraterrestrial world. Catherine lives in 1930s Kansas during the Dust Bowl. Lenore, who lives in England in 1919, mourns the death of her brother during WWI in letters to her estranged childhood friend. Space travel and dust, very 21st century Brian May.
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
Zodiacal dust scatters sunlight creating spectacular night skies. Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza, the result of a scientifically proven virgin birth, develops the power to heal people. However, every time someone is healed, other people disappear in a beam of golden light. A cosmic exploration of friendship, duty, and free will.
–Adrienne Gillespie, currently reading On the Come Up by Angie Thomas