When Taylor Swift officially completed her transition to pop, the country music-lover in me needed to grieve a little. By the time I reached the “acceptance” stage, I spotted a silver lining. One important thing hasn’t changed: each of her songs is still a story. Swift may have left her sequined dresses and cowgirl boots in the past, but the storyteller in her is as present as ever.
Over the years, fans have always loved how Swift’s music is full of relatable and emotional tales, and her lyrics have been likened to diary entries. I agree with that, and as a book-lover, I can’t help but also see her music as the soundtrack to YA novels. From first love and heartbreak to new beginnings and overcoming obstacles, Swift’s music covers the bases for pretty much all popular young adult novel themes. I’d say that her songs are basically condensed books, which is something I love about them.
I keep waiting for Swift to take the plunge and add “novelist” to her absurdly long list of accomplishments. The girl’s busy, of course, but I’m actually surprised she hasn’t done it yet. She has expressed interest in the idea, as well as shared that she wrote a novel as an early teen. Someday, my friends, it will happen.
Until then, check out these 10 YA novels that have storylines exactly like Taylor Swift’s songs:
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
Song: “Welcome to New York”
“Welcome to New York” conveys the wonder, excitement, and anxiety of moving to the city that never sleeps. As Swift puts it in her song, it feels like the city has “been waiting for you” — a sentiment that is shared by Cordelia and Letty, two of the heroines of Bright Young Things. Having left small-town life behind, they seek fame, fortune, and adventure. But maybe they should have been careful of what they wished for.
Reasons to Be Happy by Katrina Kittle
Song: “Tied Together With a Smile”
One of Swift’s earlier songs, “Tied Together With a Smile” tells the poignant story of a girl struggling with heavy emotional turmoil. She fights so hard to be perfect but can’t seem to see what’s beautiful about her. Hannah, the protagonist of Reasons to Be Happy, is the same way. With her mom dying of cancer, her dad drinking too much, and the popular kids at her new school hassling her, she’s “coming undone.” To deal with her pain, she finds herself compelled to binge and purge and she doesn’t know how to stop.
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Song: “Bad Blood”
After discovering that her boyfriend is carrying on an online relationship with another girl in Going Vintage, Mallory decides to ditch both technology and her boyfriend. No, Swift did not write “Bad Blood” about the discovery of an ex’s avatar affair, but the song’s themes of betrayal and choosing to leave bad relationships behind are consistent with the novel’s. Plus, I can see Swift supporting Mallory’s desire to “go vintage”; after all, she knows everything about finding adorable retro outfits.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Song: “You Belong With Me”
It’s a tale as old as time: a girl falls for her guy friend, who just so happens to already have a girlfriend. Both Anna and the French Kiss and “You Belong With Me” capture the angst of pining after your guy friend, dreaming about the day when he wakes up and finds what he’s been looking for has been there the whole time.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Song: “I Know Places”
The Delirium TV series never materialized into anything more than a pilot, but if a film adaptation ever comes about, I’m going to write a letter to the producers and insist that they use “I Know Places” on the soundtrack. They’d be crazy not to, as both the song and the novel tell the story of a high stakes, hidden love affair and the danger of exposure. Like the couple in the song, Alex and Lena know that “loose lips sink ships all the damn time.”
Crash Into You by Katie McGarry
Song: “Love Story”
More intense than the dreamy “Love Story,” Crash Into You’s central couple, Rachel and Isaiah, first meet at a drag race rather than a party. Tired of playing a role in her parents’ perfect world, Rachel races to have something for herself. When she and Isaiah become involved, they have a number of problems to solve, including finding a way to get her family to accept him. In both the song and the novel, the hero and heroine believe that “this love is difficult, but it’s real.”
Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt
Song: “I Knew You Were Trouble”
Ah, the times we don’t listen to our gut. Aces Up and “I Knew You Were Trouble” show us how it feels to be dragged back down to earth after getting involved in something exhilarating but risky. It’s an ill-advised relationship in both, but Aces Up raises the stakes because Cole, the leather-jacket-wearing, cigarette-smoking bad boy of the book, gets Shannon involved in a poker society that doesn’t exactly play by the rules. At just 17, she shouldn’t be gambling period, but she goes all in to raise money for college after her dad loses his job.
Fifteen by Beverly Cleary
Not only do they share a title, each “Fifteen” storyline delves into the excitement of the first crush-turned first boyfriend, friendship, and growing up. While the song “Fifteen” is based pretty specifically on Swift’s experiences during that year of her life, the novel’s heroine, Jane, would be able to relate, as she also has an older boyfriend with a car and is living “life before you know who you’re gonna be.”
Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross
Swift and Annie of Whatever Life Throws at You both understand the appeal of a larger-than-life guy. In “SuperStar,” he’s a musician; in Whatever, he’s Jason, a rising baseball star. The protagonists are in awe of these guys, and they know they shouldn’t fall for them. But it's just too tempting...
Easy by Tammara Webber
Song: “White Horse”
The happily ever after that wasn’t is a central part of Easy and “White Horse.” Jacqueline, the novel’s leading lady, is blindsided when she finds out that her boyfriend — the one who led her to believe that they had a future together and who she chose her college to be near — wants the chance to play the field before settling down. She realizes it’s time to create new plans, and, like Swift sings, “find someone somewhere who might actually treat [her] well.” With her ex pulling such a sleazy move, he certainly doesn’t fit the bill. In retrospect, it might have been a warning sign that he called her the Jackie O. to his JFK. That marriage wasn’t necessary one to aspire to.
If Taylor Swift does end up hopping on the celebrities-writing-novels bandwagon (yes, please!) and needs inspiration, she can start by looking at her past album track lists.
Images: Alloy Entertainment; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Bloomsbury; Speak; HarperCollins; Delacorte Books; Harlequin Teen; Avon Camelot Books; Entangled: Teen; Berkley Trade; Giphy