Jukebooks: The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

boy on the bridgeWhen Laura decided to study Russian in ninth grade, she pictured travelling to the land of Ivan the Terrible: Passionate, dangerous, alive. But when she actually travels to Russia to spend a semester, Laura finds it bleak and unfriendly. Except for the boy, Alyosha. This boy shows her the Russia beneath the surface, where real teens party with their friends. Certain musical groups, or particular songs are viewed as anti-government and forbidden. Oddly, singer/songwriter Neil Young is okay. It’s because he sings a song that criticizes the American South, they explain. That song is “Southern Man,”released in 1970. Here’s a sampling of lyrics.


Lily Belle,
your hair is golden brown
I’ve seen your black man
comin’ round
Swear by God
I’m gonna cut him down!
I heard screamin’
and bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?

Listen to a clip of “Southern Man” here.

Four years later, a band named Lynyrd Skynyrd, originally formed in Jacksonville, Florida, had a response for Young. In  “Sweet Home Alabama,” lead singer and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant writes, “Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her/Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down/Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

Listen to “Sweet Home Alabama” here.

There was no animosity between Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In a recent Rolling Stones article, journalist Andy Green quotes Van Zant: “We didn’t even think about it. The words just came out that way. We just laughed like hell and said, ‘Ain’t that funny.’ We love Neil Young. We love his music.” As for Young,  “I’m proud to have my name in a song like theirs.” (Ballinger, Lee. (2002 ©1999). Lynyrd Skynyrd: An Oral History).

In 1977, three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including Ronnie Van Zant, were killed in a plane crash. Below is the audio from a Neil Young concert, performed shortly after the accident. Young sings his own song, “Alabama,” and then moves into “Sweet Home Alabama” near the end.

Diane Colson, reading an advance reader’s copy of Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls.

Jukebooks: Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Dontyouforget about meThey come to Gardnerville after hearing that it’s a magical town where no one gets ill. When they are met at the train station, the newcomers hear about the downside. Every four years, the benign magic of the town turns evil, forcing a teenager to commit a horrible crime. Skylar has lived in Gardnerville all her life. She’s seen it happen. Four years ago, it was her sister, Piper, who led a group of teens to their death. Now, Skylar is sure, it will be her.

The two sisters, Piper and Skylar, had been recording over some old mix tapes that belonged to their mother, telling their own story. One of the tapes was labeled, “Don’t You Forget About Me.” This song, performed by the band Simple Minds, can be heard at the beginning and end of the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. The video clip below blends the song with clips from the song.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Euphoria by Lily King

Jukebooks: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

This week I started with a song, “That’s What Friends Are For, ” by Dionne Warwick and friends, and then chose a book. Going with the spirit of the line,

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’,
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure.
That’s what friends are for.

Girls like usI selected Gail Giles’s book, Girls Like Us. The story is about two girls, Qunicy and Biddy, who have absolutely nothing in common except mental disabilities. After finishing high school, there is no where for them to go. So they end up as roommates. It’s not friendship at first sight by any means, but by the end they have established a hard-won trust in each other. This is the kind of friendship I connect with the song, a solid connection that holds people together through all of life’s circumstances.

“That’s What Friend Are For” was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager in the early 80s. Rod Stewart sings it for the soundtrack of the movie Night ShiftHere’s Stewart’s version:


But the Dionne Warwick version is more famously known. In 1986, Warwick recorded it with Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder as part of a benefit for the American Foundation for AIDs Research. At the time, AIDS was a dreadful, mysterious disease; many musicians and celebrities died while waiting for AIDs research to begin. This is the version of the song most likely to be heard on an oldies station, I’ve omitted the video of that performance because it looks terribly lip-synced. Nevertheless, the voices sound fabulous together, so here’s the audio:


The clip below is from a live performance at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1987. The line-up here is Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder.

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced readers copy of Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Jukebooks: Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett

Life in the Fat LaneLara is the envy of the girls at Forest Hill High School, and why not? She’s beautiful, her family has money, and she can eat whatever she likes without gaining a pound. She glows as homecoming queen. But when Lara breaks out in hives, she takes a medication that causes her to gain weight. Horrified that she has gained ten pounds in a month, Lara stops taking her medicine. The hives come back. Lara’s perfect life turns into a nightmare as her weight soars over two hundred pounds. Everything changes.

Life in the Fat Lane was published in 1998, but it’s message of thin-is-in is even more true today. In 1998, no one was worrying about a “thigh gap.” But Lara’s feelings as she goes from pretty/popular to lonely  and laughed at still ring true today.

The title of the book is a play on “Life in the Fast Lane,” a song by the rock group Eagles. It’s included in their 1976 album, Hotel California. Add that title song plus another track, “New Kid in Town,” and a timeworn theme emerges: Not all that glitters in LA is gold.

The connection between a book that examines the fragile allure of body shape and a song that peels away the glamour of Hollywood  is stronger than it first appears. Here’s the music:

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey.

Jukebooks: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Six Feet Over ItIt really isn’t fair. Leigh’s dad buys a graveyard (why not a Taco Bell? why not a Ferrari?) and guess who ends up working the office? Fourteen year-old Leigh, that’s who. Never mind child labor laws. Never mind the incongruity of pushing aside Algebra homework to sell cemetary plots to sobbing customers. Leigh’s cup runneth over. Until tragedy makes her realize how good she really had it.

The song that goes with this book is completely improbable. It’s based on a conversation Leigh has in a Spanish class that goes like this:

Me: ¿Te gusta musica?
Ken Dale, my Spanish partner: Sí, yo prefiero Sade. Mucho gusto “Smooth Operator.”
Me: Sí. Yo también.
Ken Dale: ¿Vamos a la playa ahora? ¿O quizás Taco Bell?
Me: Bueno! Sí, como no. ¡Vamos!

It was Sade Adu’s performance of this song that captured the attention of Epic Records. “Smooth Operator” is included on Sade’s first album, Diamond Life, released in 1984.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Breaking Butterflies by M. Anelais

Jukebooks: My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love

Some of your favorite authors in the young adult literature world have put their own spin on the holiday season in a brand-new collection of holiday-themed short stories. For this incredible collection, we have a full playlist.

To get the connections, you’ll have to read the stories!



1. “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell
A Thousand Years by Kristina Perry


2. “The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me by The Smiths


3. “Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Pena
Yo Amo La Navidad by Tercer Cielo


4. “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han
Last Christmas by Wham


5. “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins
O, Christmas Tree by Winter Solstice


6. “Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Glee Cast


7. “Krampuslauf” by Holly Black
Auld Lang Syne  by Rod Stewart


8. “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Foreman
You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones


9. “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire
Away in a Manger by Brad Paisley


10. “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White
Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney


11. “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter
O Holy Night by Jackie Evancho


12. “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor
Beautiful Dreamer by Roy Orbison


Jukebooks: All You Are by Elizabeth Karre

all you areDa’Quan figures that if he could be one of the popular kids, he might be able to attract the attention of the lovely Ashantay. Much to his amazement, Da’Quan finds a stranger in his room who offers him the gift of channeling other people. Popular people. This should give him a great shot at Ashantay. But each time he channels someone for their cool trait — such as playing basketball — Da’Quan gets an unwanted trait as well. Somehow, he just can’t get the perfect person to channel. But, as he discovers in the end, he may not really need to.

The song, “Cool Kids,” was a collaborative effort of the siblings that make up the band Echosmith (Jamie, Noah, Sydney and Graham Sierota,) along with Jeffery David and Jesiah Dzwonek. The lyrics are striking in their simplicity and precision:

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Watching adorable Sydney Sierota sing about wanting to be a cool kid feels a bit Twilight Zonish, but the overall emotion of the music video is joyous acceptance.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Jukebooks: On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

on a clear dayIn the year 2035, the division between rich and poor has grown so severe that a group of gifted young people decide it’s worth their lives to try and bridge the gap. But will courage and intelligence be enough to combat mega-corporations and drug lords? In his final novel, Myers nudges readers to think about what is worth living – and dying – for.

The song that share its name with this book comes from a Broadway musical, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, (music by Burton Lane/lyrics by Alan Jay), which was adapted into a movie in 1970. The movie’s plot is far from the inspirational, change-the-world story line of Myer’s novel. Barbra Streisand plays Daisy, who goes to a hypnotist, Marc Chabot, to help her quit smoking. Turns out, a different personality emerges during hypnosis, the seductive Melinda. As Daisy falls in love with Marc, Marc falls in love with Melinda. The resolution to all this is just bizarre. Daisy, who is clairvoyant, informs Marc that they will be together in 2038, which is just three years after Myers’ book begins.

Speaking of bizarre, take a look at the movie poster on left. Very psychedelic!

But the song, On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) is beautiful, and Streisand knocks it out of the park.


-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Jukebooks: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

13530012Matthew Shepard would have turned 38 years old this week.

Matthew’s story has been told many times since the night of October 12, 1998, when he was brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead. Matthew was killed because he was gay. In her award-winning novel, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, Lesléa Newman explores the tragedy from multiple viewpoints, writing in powerful free verse.

She writes:

two thin white tear tracks
one red swollen blood-caked face
this is someone’s child

Could it happen again? It can, and does, in large and small ways.

In 2013, an Irish musician named Hozier released the song, “Take Me to Church.” The dark, measured tone of the music, combined with Hozier’s sorrowful voice and heart-wrenching lyrics, call to mind the gravity of dangerous love. In creating this 2014 music video, it was Hozier’s suggestion to show two young male lovers. The fear it evokes reminds the viewer of Matthew Shepard, as well as countless unnamed men and women who have been tortured, and even killed, because they are gay.

-Diane Colson, who is currently reading How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon.

Jukebooks: Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Every BreathMycroft and Watts are two very different teens,  but as best friends they balance each other perfectly. James Mycroft – brilliant and scarred  – has found a caretaker and best mate in Rachel Watts – a deceptively ordinary girl. When they discover Homeless Dave in the park with his throat cut, the pair launches an investigation a la Sherlock and Holmes. As they mull over the evidence, one of their friends recalls a line from Chuck Palahnuik’s book, Fight Club: “Live or die – Every breath is a choice.” This line will return later in the book when Watts and Mycroft find themselves in mortal danger, realizing each breath could be their last.

“Every Breath You Take” is a haunting song released in 1983 by the Police, a British trio with roots in 70s the punk scene. The song has a tension to it that creates an ominous mood: Is this a love song or a threat? Lead singer Sting’s intensity in the music video indicates it might be the latter….

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne