Jukebooks: Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

Tear You ApartViv lives in Beau Rivage, a place where magic still lingers in the blood of the accursed. Viv herself has the Snow White curse, irresistible beauty that can only end with the hunter’s knife or a prince’s love. When a sadistic fairy curses Viv’s boyfriend Henley to be the Huntsman, the one fated to carve out Viv’s heart, life gets worse than complicated.

For fans of mixed-up fairy tales, Tear You Apart is a deliciously dark treat. Cross creates a realistic world in which old, familiar dramas are reenacted with present day panache. Since this is a re-telling of the Snow White tale, it’s fun to look at one of the first contemporary versions, created by Walt Disney Studios. Released in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs featured the ideal girl of the day – lovely, virginal, and longing for that prince who loves her at first glance.

If only things were that easy for Viv.

Diane Colson, currently reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.

Jukebooks: As White As Snow by Salla Simukka

As White As SnowReaders first met Finnish Lumikki Andersson in the novel, As Red as Blood, when a bag of blood-soaked money led her on a dangerous mission. Now Lumikki is on vacation in Prague, pleased with her cherished solitude, the gorgeous view before her, and the sound of Shirley Manson’s voice as she sings about dark skies and rain. Then a strange girl appears, the same strange girl that Lumikki has seen at several other tourist locations in Prague. Much to Lumikki’s annoyance, the girl approaches. Everything changes when she speaks, however, telling Lumikki: “I think you’re my sister.”

The Shirley Manson song is “Only Happy When It Rains,” recorded in the mid-nineties by Manson and her band, Garbage. The song came together as the band sat around playing acoustic guitars, building on the lyric, “I’m only happy when it rains.” In a 1995 interview with Addicted to Noise (an early online music magazine,) guitarist Steve Marker explained:

It’s really just us poking fun of ourselves… We’re poking fun at the alternatrock angst, wearing your heart on your sleeve thing and at ourselves for writing such dark songs.

The video emphasizes the conscious mimicry of strange and dark themes so prevalent in alternative rock, combined with Garbage’s sly sense of fun.


Diane Colson, currently reading Still Waters by Ash Parsons.

Jukebooks: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all the bright placesSometimes Finch just blanks out. He cannot remember the preceding hours, days…or sometimes months. After this last blank-out, he “wakes” to find himself standing on the outer ledge of his school’s bell tower. Had he intended to jump? It’s a very rude awakening. Until something bright and miraculous happens.

Finch is not alone. There is a girl on the other side of the bell tower. Seeing her, Finch lapses into stand-up comic mode to distract the girl as he edges near her. The girl – Violet – is terrified. Finch convinces her to climb back to safety and pretend to then save Finch. After all, Finch is a weirdo, a screw-up, the sort of guy who would hurl himself from the bell tower.

OneRepublic is a successful pop-rock group that has produced three well-received studio albums and played with numerous top level performers. The title of their second studio album was appropriately named Waking Up; the first single, “All the Right Moves,” was released in 2009. In addition to the haunting echo of the title, All the Bright Places, the lyrics to this song could be part of a Finch monologue:

Do you think I’m special, do you think I’m nice
Am I bright enough to shine in your spaces
Between the noise you hear and the sound you like
Are we just sinking in the ocean of faces

The music video does not quite reflect the poignancy of these lyrics, but the dancing is quite lovely.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman.

Jukebooks: I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

I'm Glad I DidJJ is the classic black sheep in her family. While Mom, Dad, and big brother are all proud lawyers, JJ longs to make it in the music business. It’s 1963, so this is a very different endeavor that it would be today. But it’s one that the author, Cynthia Weil, has more than enough authority to write about. With her songwriting partner and husband, Barry Mann, Weil has composed songs for artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, The DriftersThe Ronettes, and The Animals. Thus JJ’s experiences in I’m Glad I Did form a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the music business, as it existed fifty years ago.

One of the many songs Weil and Mann wrote, along with Phil Spector, is the wildly successful “You’ve Lost That Lovin’Feeling,” made famous by The Righteous Brother’s recording in 1964. The duo that comprised the group, Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, are not brothers. As the story goes, the group’s name came about after a performance, when a Marine in the audience called out, “That was righteous, brothers!”

Their sound is beautiful and distinctive. It’s Medley who sings that rich baritone, so perfectly harmonized with Hatfield’s soaring tenor. They sing with such emotion that their bluesy sound has been dubbed “blue-eyed soul.” Their version of “Unchained Melody” exploded in popularity after it was featured in the 1990 movie, GhostBut it is “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” that was ranked as the number one most-played song on the radio in the 20th century.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of Alive by Chandler Baker.


Jukebooks: Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

mr. brightsideThey might have been friends in a past life, but in this life, Juliette and Abram don’t speak to each other. How can they? Juliette’s mother was having an affair with Abram’s father, culminating in a car crash that killed the cheating pair. The gulf of grief and awkward recognition between Juliette and Abram seemed far too wide to bridge. Yet one night at midnight, they run into each other by chance at the CVS. Both are picking up drug prescriptions that testify to their ragged emotions during the year since the car accident. Turns out, they kind of like each other. They kind of understand each other. At last, they come to realize that finding each other is the bright side of a terrible tragedy.

The reference to “Mr. Brightside” immediately draw the mind to the first song written by The Killers, a catchy wail of a song released in 2004. The lyrics seem to be a disorganized mash of jealousy and longing as the singer envisions his lover with another man, sung with the kind of passion that invites full volume at 2am. Indeed, lead singer Brandon Flowers has admitted that the song was based on a time when he caught a girlfriend cheating on him.

Here’s a taste:

Turning saints into the sea
Swimming through sick lullabies
Choking on your alibis
But it’s just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr. Brightside

It’s a pop song with a punch. Pain comes in many forms, but look for Mr. Brightside.

Ten years after, the song’s release, The Killers play for an audience in Amsterdam as part of MTV’s World Stage series. It’s hard to sit still during this enthusiastic performance, much like a giant sing-along.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance reader’s copy of Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes.

Jukebooks: We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

wecanworkitoutNow that the Lonely Hearts Club has expanded to almost thirty girls, Penny Lane finds her enthusiasm for the club waning. Sure, it would never had happened if Penny had not started the club herself, building on the successful theme of girl empowerment. Who needs a guy to make them happy? Then Penny meets Ryan. Things get awkward. No longer lonely, Penny’s clout with her girls diminishes.

As a follow-up to Eulberg’s The Lonely Hearts Club, this novel is also brimming with references to Beatles songs. Sections are introduced with a Beatles lyric, such as, “If I love you, please don’t hurt my pride,” from “If I Fell,” a beautiful example of Fab Four harmony. But the Beatles went in so many interesting directions with their music that I was reluctant to highlight one more pretty song. So instead, we’ll go with a song from Abbey Road, “Carry That Weight.”

The song is part of a long medley that constitutes the flip side of Abbey Road. The songs, bits and pieces that have little relation to each other, are melded together wonderfully by the Beatles’ long time producer, George Martin. “Carry That Weight” was recorded along with the song that precedes it on the album, “Golden Slumbers.”

Below is a recording of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and the final song on that side of Abbey Road, “The End,” set to a photographic montage of the Beatles.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge.

Jukebooks: Everybody Knows Your Name by Andrea Seigel & Brent Bradshaw

Everybody knows your nameIt’s a really big deal to be selected as a contestant on Spotlight. Teens from all over the country audition for a place on the reality show/singing competition. Some, like Ford, hailing from very small town Arkansas, see this as the chance to escape a bleak future. Others, such as Magnolia, are not even certain why they are there. All come to be molded into sell-able images and, incidentally, sing. But sometimes something genuine happens, even in the world of fake reality.

So here is a book that is chock-full of songs. It was hard to pick one, so I’ve included a playlist that includes songs picked by Magnolia and Ford while they travel cross-country. See if you can guess who picked each song!


1. Alicia Keys – “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”

2. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (This is the title of an album, so I’ve chosen just one track, “Shelter from the Storm”)

3. Britney Spears – “Til the World Ends”

4. Spoon – “The Underdog”

5. Fleetwood Mac – “Gypsy”

6. Led Zeppelin – “When the Levee Breaks”

7. Haim – “The Wire”

8. Iggy Pop – “The Passenger”

9. Prince – “I Would Die 4 U”

10. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (Another album! I picked “Tumbling Dice off this one.)

Jukebooks: Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

HoldTightBefore the earthquake, Magdalie was a fifteen year-old girl living with her aunt and beloved cousin, Nadine. After the earthquake, Magdalie and Nadine were everything to each other. The survival of each became entwined with the other. They dreamed of the day that they would travel to Miami together, how they would go see movies, get belly piercings, and live in air conditioning. Too soon, Nadine gets the chance to leave. Magdalie can only try to save money and hope that she will also leave her homeland, if that indeed becomes her choice.

So what kind of music do Haitian kids listen to? Magdalie and Nadine like Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and Beyonce. Of special interest is the ring tone Nadine has for a special boy friend: “Je lui dirai,” sung by Celine Dion. This emphasizes the French influence on two very different cultures – Quebec and Haiti. The novel weaves together the languages of Haiti – English, Creole, and French. The musical tastes of Magdalie and Nadine embrace popular music from all of these influences.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance reader’s copy of The Truth Commission by Susan Juby.

Jukebooks: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I'll Meet You ThereSkylar is sooo ready to leave her tiny home town of Creek View and start college in San Francisco. All that lies between her and her dream is the three months of summer. Skylar doesn’t calculate that three months is more than enough to shake her determination to leave Creek View. It begins when Skylar’s mother is fired from her crummy job at Taco Bell, and doesn’t seem interested in finding a new one. Then there’s Josh Mitchell, a Marine who has just returned home to Creek View after being gravely injured in Afghanistan. Why can’t Skylar stop thinking about him? As they work together at the funky Paradise Motel, they seem to be moving towards friendship and maybe more.

The novel is full of songs, but the one that strikes most deeply is “Hotel California.” A hippie couple is playing it in one of the motel rooms as Josh and Skylar dance together in the pouring rain. Josh sings along during the lines:

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

The song was written and recorded by the Eagles in 1977. Don Henley’s voice is wistful and weary as he describes a place that pulls you in until it’s impossible to leave. It won the Grammy Record of the Year award in 1977. The recording also includes a wicked guitar fest featuring Don Fender (12 string) and Joe Walsh (awesome) at the end of the vocals.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Lock In by John Scalzi.

Jukebooks: I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

20820994At thirteen, twins Noah and Jude are firm fixtures in each other’s lives. They are rivals, co-conspirators, and unshakable allies all at the same time. Three years later, everything about their lives is fractured. Their once strong bond is almost nonexistent, and their family seems broken beyond repair. The creative drive, however, cannot be denied for long, and soon their paths back to art, reconciliation, and passion will bring them back to each other.

Told in two timelines, one from Noah at thirteen and one from Jude at sixteen, the 2015 Printz Award winner I’ll Give You the Sun is an ambitious, evocative study of the power of art to inspire and heal. There is a glorious tension in each narrator’s story, keeping the reader on edge as they race to discover the fates of the various tangled family and romantic relationships.

Jandy Nelson uses evocative language to express emotions, with Noah’s states of mind especially bursting with idiosyncratic colors and motion. The poetry of so many lines linger long after readers finish the last page.

In thinking through what music or song might touch on both the language and powerful longing so key to the novel, I had the thrilling realization that one of my favorite songs of yearning fit the bill.

Michigan born singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens uses the musical equivalent of this novel’s elements in his compositions: image-laden lyrics, a slow build toward a dynamic final verse, and multi-layered choruses and instruments to create a lush, romantic sound. He’s also justifiably famous for his lengthy song titles and deliberate wordplay. “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!” from Stevens’ 2005 album Illinois struck me as a perfect fit for I’ll Give You the Sun, and in particular for the character of Noah.

The song doesn’t line up in all details, but it nails two aspects. First, the lyrics detail the powerfully felt spark of new love and the electric physical brushes that make you tremble before a first kiss even feels possible. The song can be read as featuring platonic or romantic love, and like the best songs reflects the listener as much as the songwriter, but here it fits Noah’s passionate attraction perfectly. The hesitant gestures and the final defiant outpouring of emotion sync with Noah’s tumultuous navigation of his relationship with the object of his affection, Brian.

Second, the narrative and music swirl together to present a timeline that is being remembered, one summer’s moments of longing and regret, and a present reaffirmation of the narrator’s strength of feeling and continued steadfast devotion. I’ve always been impressed by how a few lines in the first verse can so vividly recall summer in precise images, perfectly matched with Stevens’ delicate delivery and quiet pauses. The final undeniable explosion of sound including the repeated chorus of “We were in love…” and joyful horns finish with a strong note of hope and reconciliation.

A sample of the lyrics:

I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed
Deep in the tower, the prairies below
I can tell you, the telling gets old
Terrible sting and terrible storm

I can tell you the day we were born
My friend is gone, he ran away

I can tell you, I love him each day
Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged
I can tell you I love him each day

Listen to the song here:

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The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!

Thanks to regular Jukebooks author Diane Colson for letting me join in on this feature for The Hub. While working together on this year’s Printz Committee we discovered a shared love of music and relishing the connections between a well told story and a well wrought song. It’s great to find someone else who composes playlists for favorite novels and characters!

-Robin Brenner