YA Books for Music Lovers #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! Have you ever noticed how so many book lovers are also passionate about music? I know I sure am. Music and books are a wonderful combination, and they have a lot in common. Both books and music are powerful forms of expression and artistry. They transport us, help us navigate emotions, and can even elevate us as human beings. In honor of the beautiful duo known as books and music, let’s take a look at YA books which incorporate music as a theme. (Music about books would be an interesting topic too, but that one we’ll save for another day.)

Without further ado, here are the top ten, music-themed YA books. If you can suggest other good, music-related YA books–especially in YA fantasy–I am all ears. 🙂

–Eve Messenger

10. The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb

This is one of those books that always has a song reference going. The main character is Aden, a high school senior with a beautiful voice who’s looking to get a solo gig. Heavy themes of grief, teen pregnancy, and drug addiction abound, but they’re strangely glossed over. One of the most compelling aspects of the story is Aden’s struggle to connect with her Jewish identity, which she lost as a little girl when her mother passed away.

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9. The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana

Susannah wants to follow in the footsteps of her rockstar father, with whom she has a complicated relationship. The story has a cool, dreamy atmosphere steeped in music, though the plot is a little disjointed . The Midnights represents yet another music-centered story that’s rife with heavy themes likes grief and loss. Wouldn’t it be great to encounter a music-themed story with depth but also an uplifting feel? I’d also like to see more music-themed stories in YA fantasy. That’s why I’m writing one. 🙂

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8. The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Fair warning: You might want to be in a strong emotional place before plunging into this book about three characters dealing with grief and loss. Music is a central theme–Sasha is a music blogger; Logan is a songwriter. And Woodfolk’s lovely, poignant writing will appeal to fans of Nina Lacour and Jeff Zentner.

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7. The Haters by Jesse Andrews

This book totally captures what it’s like to be in a band with friends. Okay, so it’s also littered with F bombs and explicit sexual descriptions that don’t add much to the story. That being said, the adventure this music-loving band of jazz camp dropouts goes on is really entertaining. Jesse Andrews, of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl  fame, is a genuinely funny writer who aptly describes the interactions and special chemistry of different personalities in a band, kids who are in the trenches together as musicians but who also have complicated friendships, emotions, and desires.

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6. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist  by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

 Nick, a guy in a band, asks Norah, daughter of a famous music producer, to pretend to be his girlfriend after his ex brings a date to his gig. Half-assed pick-up line aside, Nick and Nora spend the entire night hopping to different venues in New York City and forming a deep connection. Except, is it really that deep? The 2008 film adaptation starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings suffers from the same weakness as the book in that Nick and Norah don’t really talk to each other that much. Still, the music is a great factor, and so is the New York City setting.

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5. Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez 

Carmen is a violin virtuoso raised by a stage mom who was once a rising opera star but whose career was cut short when she became pregnant with Carmen. Forging through the cutthroat world of music competition, Carmen unexpectedly bonds with her biggest competitor, Jeremy, both of whom live, breathe and adore music. As a main character, Carmen can be a bit wishy-washy, but her scenes with tutor Helen are super good.

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4. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

Though this isn’t technically a YA book, The Ensemble is a glorious celebration of music and enduring friendship. Over a 15-year period, starting when they are young, the story follows four high-level classical musicians who perform together in a string quartet. Shades of Mozart in the Jungle.

The Ensemble

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This story about humans and alternative dragons who can take human form, has a strong plot, smart writing, and super unique world building. Plus, all the main characters have a growth arcs that are satisfying to read about. The main character is Seraphina, an unusually gifted young musician hired to work at the palace as a court musician.

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2.  The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Though this isn’t totally centered around music, science-y Haitian girl Natasha and Korean-American boy poet Daniel meet in a record store, Natasha wears earbuds a lot of the time,  they go on an awesome karaoke excursion, and both are music lovers, so I’m including it on the list.

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1.This Song Will Save Your Life  by Leila Sales

Introvert Elise has always felt like an outsider, and music is her escape. At a warehouse party she finally meets people she can connect with and discovers her love of DJ’ing. Serious themes but also lots of humor.

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Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Giveaway & Author Q&A: Kathryn Purdie – Burning Glass @KathrynPurdie #amreading

Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .

Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.

Kathryn Purdie

Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:

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An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.

The Interview

Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.

Eve: When is your book’s official release date?

K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!

Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).

Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?

K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.

Tiger Beat all-authors band Nicole Brinkley-YA Interrobang
Tiger Beat all-authors band – YA Interrobang/Nicole Brinkley

Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?

K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)

Purdie three recent favorite reads

Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!

Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂

Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

K.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.

Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

K.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

Website: kathrynpurdie.com
Twitter: @kathrynpurdie
Instagram: kathrynpurdie
Tumblr: kathrynpurdie

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Randi Pink – Into White

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Hello, book lovers! In this, the “month of love,” I’m celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by featuring Tuesday interviews with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

Smart, funny, fashionable Randi Pink whose talent and passion for beautiful writing is about to skyrocket her to literary stardom.Randi Pink Into White

The Book:

Into White is set to release in September 2016.

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Why Into White is a must-read:

Compelling, controversial, magical. “In a moment of desperation, a black girl prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.”

The Interview:

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

R.P.: I was terrified! I wrote the first chapter of INTO WHITE as an assignment in a Children’s Literature Workshop, and I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep the night before. I knew the subject matter was controversial, so I feared judgment, but the class was so supportive and kind!

Stepping into that class and opening myself up to criticism taught me a valuable lesson about writing – as long as the story is rooted in truth, the audience will respond positively. I also learned that fear and creativity can’t live in the same place – one kills the other.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. If you created a playlist for your novel, what are some of the songs on it?

R.P.: Yes! I wouldn’t have made it through the process of creating this novel without Johnny Cash, India Arie, Cyndi Lauper, and especially Willow Smith. Every musician on INTO WHITE’s playlist has one thing in common, they embrace their own artistic uniqueness. I imagine Toya listening for the courage to be herself, because that’s what I listen for.

[Click here to hear some of the songs on Randi Pink’s Into White playlist.]

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Cyndi Lauper Photo

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

R.P.: I do! We’re called The Night Writers, and we met at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. We had our first meeting nearly three years ago, and the group has produced such beautiful writing! I encourage every aspiring children’s book author to join, not only SCBWI, but a critique group. Creative minds need to be around other creative minds. Even the most solitary writer needs a regular dose of creative companionship.

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©Sarella77|Dreamstime.com
Creative minds

Eve: What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

R.P.: I don’t do writing schedules. I write because it’s my compulsion. Example: I can’t get through the pastor’s sermon without scribbling a haiku, poem, or short story on the tithing envelop. J

I usually don’t do rewards either. My reward is the calm that comes when I search my mind for innovative ways to articulate a story. And the feeling of accomplishment when I read (and love!) my own words.

Eve: What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

R.P.: I hope INTO WHITE encourages an honest dialogue about self-denigration. In many ways, we are all Toyas. Hoping to lose those extra pounds. Praying for lighter or darker skin. Wishing for a smaller or larger nose, or waist, or rear-end. Secretly haunted by our own self-doubt.

I sincerely hope that Toya’s vulnerability and openness will inspire the reader to reveal his or her own insecurities to someone they trust, because honesty is the first step to self-love. Accessing true happiness begins with accepting ourselves as imperfect beings. If you’re chasing perfection, there will be no rest.

For more information about Randi Pink and her exciting new YA debut novel, visit:

BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS of 2016. Author Q&A: Roshani Chokshi – The Star-Touched Queen

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Happy February, fellow book lovers! Ah, February. . . the month of love, what better time to do something extra special to honor one of our greatest loves, young adult fiction? Every Tuesday in the month of February I’ll be posting interviews with authors of 2016’s best YA debut novels–yes, BEST YA debut novels, meaning every book has ALL the earmarks of a MUST-READ:

  • compelling premise
  • unforgettable characters
  • lyrical and/or voice-y writing style
  • a speculative/fantasy element (yes, I am admittedly biased)
  • and a pretty cover. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

The about-to-become-very-famous Roshani Chokshi (“Rosh” to her friends).  She’s talented, gorgeous (half-Indian and half-Filipina!), and one of the nicest people in the world.

Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conference

The Book:

The Star-Touched Queen is set for release in April 2016. In case you can’t wait to start reading, St. Martin’s Press plans to release a teaser of the first several chapters in March!

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Why The Star-Touched Queen is a must-read:

Indian mythology, gorgeous writing style, wildly imaginative world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), and a cover so beautiful it feels like stepping into a dream.

The Interview:

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
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EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

Eve:  Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

Eve:  Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.     Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

 

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

A Moment of Gratitude. . .

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A sunny day in green forest with high trees

I love. . .

life.

reading.

my reading friends.

writing.

my writer friends.

my daughter and how she brings sparkle and laughter to my life.

my son and how ambitious, confident and reliable he is.

my husband and how loyal and smart he is.

the city I live in with its small town feel, friendly people, and quaint Old Town and British-style traffic circle, even though it’s actually a big city with all the conveniences.

that I have a short commute to work.

losing myself in music, both as a listener and as a player, and that jubilant moment when I hear, for the first time, a song I know I’ll love forever.

the music and foreign language students of all ages I work with, their enthusiasm, “aha” moments, hugs, and goofy things they say like, “You smell like a seashell.”

my piano students, AKA friends and fellow musicians, who tell me jokes and say Anna is way better than Elsa (I agree!), and get me to do my Stitch, dog, pigeon, and wicked witch imitations.

the excitement of knowing I will publish novels.

my two dogs and two cats, the friendliest, most intuitive furry friends ever, especially Teddie, our not-purebred-poodle-after-all with his really ugly butt.

my friends who make me feel like the nicest, funniest, smartest person in the world and who’ll talk to me about anything.

my parents and wish they lived closer.

my brothers and what good family men they are.

ice cream, being outside on sunny days, being indoors on cloudy days, libraries, meeting nice people, amazing talent, handsome cowboys (but, sorry, not cowboy music), epiphanies,  dumb blonde jokes, walking in the woods, and beauty in all its forms.

–Eve Messenger

 

 

Inspiration: Which Artist Do You Wish You Could Write Like?

Janelle Monae

Musician and performance artist Janelle Monae makes music the way I want to write: totally out of the box and genuine.  If you have not watched her video for the song Tightrope, please do not pass “go;” head directly to YouTube. . . or watch it here. 🙂

 

Talk about truth and singing from the heart, watch what happens starting at 1:33 when Janelle Monae sings, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me.” She released this video as-is. Why? Because it’s deeply honest.

 

Which artist would you like to write fiction like?

What to Do If a Song Gets Stuck in Your Head

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An earworm is a snippet of a song WISH I COULD TURN BACK TIME. . . that gets stuck in your head and relentlessly refuses to leave. TO THE GOOD OLD DA-AYS It drifts off to sleep with you each night and greets you every morning even before you’re fully awake. WHEN OUR MOMMA SANG US TO SLEEP

Day after day, the earworm camps out in your mind, lays out a picnic, and loops endlessly. AND NOW WE’RE STRESSED OUT.

Sometimes the earworm may bounce to a different–also very catchy—part of the same song.
MY NAME IS BLURRY-FACE AND I CARE WHAT YOU THINK.
MY NAME IS BLURRY-FACE AND I CARE WHAT YOU THINK

How do you get rid of an earworm? WISH I COULD TURN BACK TIME. . .

Here’s some conventional wisdom:

  1. Ignore it. TO THE GOOLD OLD DAYS.. .
  2. Watch the music video.
  3. Sing it with people, friends, strangers, anyone who will join you.
  4. Replace it WHEN OUR MOMMA SANG US TO SLEEP with another song.
  5. Read a book. Or several.
  6. Do anagrams. AND NOW WE’RE STRESSED OUT
  7. Blog about it and ask others for help. WISH I COULD TURN BACK TIME. . .

HELP! If you’ve ever had a song stuck in your head, how did you finally get rid of it?