Reading to the Beat: Books for Teens that Celebrate Music

Young adult literature is full of novels that celebrate music, whether your teen is interested in classical, rock, hip-hop or any other genre. In novels such as those discussed here, teens discover the power of music, which can bring people together, heal emotional wounds and help unlock mysteries.

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five flavors of dumb anthony john

#1 Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Piper is a hearing-impaired teen who unexpectedly decides to manage Dumb, her high school's top student rock band. This witty and thoughtful novel follows Piper as she realizes her college money was spent providing cochlear implants to her infant sister; this makes Piper consider whether the managing gig can become a legitimate source of income.

tribute to another dead rock star randy powell

#2 Tribute to Another Dead Rock Star by Randy Powell

Grady Grennan is a 15-year-old dealing with the death of his mother; this burden is heavier than usual because his mother was a successful heavy metal star whose voice is still all over the radio. Along with his mentally-disabled brother, Grady begins preparing for a tribute concert in honor of his mother.

born blue han nolan

#3 Born Blue by Han Nolan

This emotional young adult novel centers on Janie, a foster child desperate to authentically sing the blues. Feeling handicapped by her blonde hair and blue eyes in a genre in which she believes a white girl can't make it, Janie changes her name to Leshaya and invents an African American father. She struggles through several foster homes, a heroin addiction and an undesired pregnancy, only to eventually get a song on the radio.

broken chords barbara snow gilbert

#4 Broken Chords by Barbara Snow Gilbert

Clara is a talented 17-year-old pianist with a former opera star for a father and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic conductor for a mother. Under pressure from her parents to become a star, Clara struggles with her perceived destiny as she prepares for the elite Nicklaus competition. A taste of life without the piano comes due to an injury, leading Clara to more deeply question her life's direction.

the musician

#5 The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap

Set in 18th century Vienna, The Musician's Daughter follows Theresa, a 15-year-old girl whose murdered father played violin for composer Franz Joseph Hayden. Theresa seeks Hayden's help in both investigating her father's death and providing income for her family. While transcribing music for the composer, Theresa begins to piece together clues to solve the mystery.

fat kid rules the world k.l. going

#6 Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Troy Billings is an overweight and suicidal 17-year-old who has a chance meeting with famous punk rock guitarist Curt MacCrae. As their friendship develops, Curt suggests that Troy play drums for his band. This opportunity may help turn Troy's life around.

gangsta rap benjamin zephaniah

#7 Gangsta Rap by Benjamin Zephaniah

When 15-year-old Ray is expelled from his East London school, he joins his likewise-exiled friends Prem and Tyrone. These three hip-hop enthusiasts are encouraged by a music shop owner to start a band, which quickly takes off. Unfortunately, their success gets them swept up into a world of gang violence and fierce rivalries.

mountain solo jeanette ingold

#8 Mountain Solo by Jeanette Ingold

Since she was three, Tess has been a violin prodigy. Now 16, Tess seems destined for greatness when a recital in Germany goes awry. She flees to Montana where she can hide with her father. While there, she begins exploring the history of Frederik Bottner, a homesteader and fellow violin player who faced struggles of his own.

beige cecil castellucci

#9 Beige by Cecil Castellucci

When her mother sets off on an archaeological dig, Katy must head to Los Angeles to stay with her father. Known as the Rat, Katy's father is a punk rock drummer for a band called Suck. Katy reluctantly becomes Suck's merchandise salesperson, despite harboring a distaste for the band's music. This young adult novel is steeped in punk rock history, including chapter titles drawn from real songs and band names.

rock star superstar blake nelson

#10 Rock Star Superstar by Blake Nelson

Set in Portland, Oregon, this novel follows Pete, a gifted bass guitarist. Pete lives the exciting life of a teenage rock star, including dating and alcohol-filled parties. Yet success comes with a price, as Pete begins to find out that the music industry has some tough lessons for him.

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