Playlist Pairings: Imagine Dragons and Your Favorite YA Reads
By Jordan Hickey (@pagetravels)
If you’re at all a fan of the band Imagine Dragons, you know their new album, Origins, just came out last week. If you’re a huge fan (like me), you’ve been listening to the album on repeat since the moment it came out and are basking in the amazingness of all the new songs. One of my favorite things to do whenever I become obsessed with a particular album is think about what books could be paired with each song (weird, I know, but such is the life of a bookworm sometimes). I had so much fun pairing each of the new Imagine Dragons songs with YA books, and I highly recommend picking up each and every one of the awesome reads I’ve attached to the Origins songs ;).
Natural - The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Natural is all about someone living in a world where they need to be cold-hearted and cutthroat in order to be successful, and this person thrives because they’re a natural at living that kind of life. This couldn’t better describe the High Court of Faerie in The Cruel Prince and the main character Jude’s place within it. Jude is at the absolute bottom of the social ladder at the start of this book and is constantly mocked for being a mortal; nevertheless, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the power she craves.
Boomerang - Wildcard by Marie Lu
In Wildcard, Emika must reevaluate her feelings for Hideo after the… questionable things she’s discovered about him. She tries to distance herself from him, but is bad at “letting [him] [...] go and moving on.” Hideo is Emika’s boomerang: no matter how hard she tries to forget him, she keeps coming back and is continuously drawn to him.
But although Emika sees no possibility for a future with Hideo, let’s not give up on this ship quite yet. There may still be hope for Hideo and Emika; after all, Dan Reynolds does sing that “just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” Might Emika convince Hideo to see where he’s wrong? You’ll just have to read Wildcard and see 😉
Machine - Divergent by Veronica Roth
This song might as well have been meant for Divergent. The first time I heard it, this book/series immediately came to mind. This song is all about rebelling against a rigid status quo, which Tris does over and over again as she faces multiple systems of authority and resists the fate imposed upon her by each and every one. She has no interest in conforming to someone else’s ambitions; no, she wants to “paint this town with [...] [her] very own vision.”
Cool Out - City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Warning: spoilers for City of Bones ahead!
At this stage in The Mortal Instruments, Clary and Jace believe themselves to be siblings, meaning they really need to find a way to rid themselves of their feelings for one another. Cool Out is all about Dan Reynolds telling himself he needs to put his mind in “cruise control” and cool down his romantic sentiments, just like how Clary and Jace need to let go of their romantic interest in one another in this book.
Bad Liar - A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
Elias and Laia are enduring some hard times (to say the least) in this book, especially when it comes to their relationship. They desperately want to find a way to be together, but are continuously faced with the impossibility of just that. They want to make each other and themselves believe that a happy future might be possible, but find that they’re both “bad liars” when it comes to convincing one another of something that’s seeming to fade further and further into the realm of hopeless.
West Coast - Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Oh, Mal and Alina, my least favorite fictional ship to ever exist. Despite my own dislike, though, in Shadow & Bone, Alina and Mal confront their feelings for one another even as Alina is whisked off to a greater purpose while Mal’s status remains more or less unchanged. Dan Reynolds sings in this song that he isn’t “a superhero” but that he won’t give up on his girl no matter what and that he can be enough, just as Mal must convince Alina to give him another chance to prove himself worthy of her.
Despite its use in a children’s movie, Zero is actually a pretty dark song: Dan Reynolds discusses a severe lack of self-confidence as well as his struggle with depression all while singing in a quick and catchy beat. Although Jane Sinner doesn’t join the game show House of Orange to hide her pain in this book, per se, she does do it in an attempt to escape her own personal crisis and pain. Little does she know that her participation in and subsequent fame because of House of Orange will force her to confront her own identity and reevaluate how she lives her life.
Bullet in a Gun - Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Warning: spoilers for all Throne of Glass books up until Empire of Storms ahead!
Upon listening to this song, I immediately thought of Aelin Galathynius. Bullet in a Gun discusses a confrontation with mortality and the idea of leaving a memorable legacy behind. In Empire of Storms, we learn that, because of her bloodline, Aelin will eventually have to sacrifice herself in order to close the Wyrdgates and banish Erawan. Following this realization, Aelin can’t stop thinking about the sacrifice she’ll eventually have to make and subsequently how she wants to be remembered, just like how Bullet in a Gun, Dan Reynolds sings that “to make a name, you pay the price” and that “there’s no other way.”
I’m almost convinced that Digital was inspired by the March for Our Lives movement: the growth and advocacy strategies employed by the students at the helm of this organization take full advantage of today’s digital age to spread their message far and wide just as the song describes. These students represent “the face of the future.” As Digital puts so well, they’re not going to change, they’re going to change everything.
Throughout this book, it’s clear Shirin and Ocean are two very different people and that both are changed by what they’ve learned from the other. Despite her attraction and growing feelings for Ocean, though, Shirin is hesitant to give herself fully to her relationship with him because of the optics and how it might be perceived by those around her. Ocean, on the other hand, wants nothing more than a committed relationship, and he spends much of A Very Large Expanse of Sea trying to convince Shirin that the only thing that should matter is them, not the rest of the world. He claims there’s no reason they can’t live in their own dream, no matter the backlash they might face for being open about their relationship.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that this song includes ocean lyrics ;).
Autoboyography is about two boys who can’t help being drawn to one another and are utterly “stuck” on each other despite the many things that might hinder their relationship: primarily, that Sebastian is far from out and that his parents have strong opinions against homosexuality. Will they end up together? Only reading will tell, but these two certainly feel like they’re the only ones for each other.
Love is a song that discusses the lack of love present in the world and the danger of quickly categorizing someone as different as “other”. Dan Reynolds sings that we’re all more similar than many make us out to be, but he question whether that will be enough to unite rather than divide. In The Hate U Give, Starr confronts many different forms of racism as she becomes an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement after witnessing her best friend shot by a police officer. In the movie especially, the idea that love is stronger than hate and can end violence is one of the key themes of this story.
Warning - spoilers for BOTH books ahead!
Kaz and Inej were perhaps my favorite ship in the Six of Crows series, even though they were the couple with the least romantic success and that readers have relatively little to cheer about. It’s clear these two have feelings for each other, though, and that they’re showing no signs of fading even as they part ways for an undetermined amount of time at the end of Crooked Kingdom. Kaz wishes Inej nothing but success as she sets off on her journey, but I think we all hope that these two are nothing but birds flying in different directions for the time being, and that Kaz and Inej eventually find their way back together.
Burn Out - Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
Warning: spoiler for first 3 Shatter Me books ahead!
In Restore Me, Warner and Juliette come to the realization that their relationship might not be as steady as they thought; that, in fact, the conflict and pain of the war they were forced to fight in the first three books might have been the sole foundation of their feelings for each other. They had innocence and happiness for a short time after their victory but are now dealing with different challenges altogether, making those joyous feelings feel distant. Despite the continued hardships they face, however, neither is willing to give up just yet, and both hope the other’s passion won’t “burn out.”
Real Life - An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Ok, so I know An Absolutely Remarkable Thing isn’t a YA book, but this song just fit it too well not to include it.
In Real Life, Dan Reynolds sings about someone who is constantly caught up in the horrors of the world displayed on the news, so much so that they forget to live in the moment and enjoy their own life. Similarly, in An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, April must grapple with her newfound fame and, later, the incredibly extreme lengths she discovers people are willing to go to express their hate. She has to learn not to back down or let the hate impact the things she says and the way she lives her life while still acknowledging the terrible occurrences she encounters, just like how the person in Real Life must learn to not let the things they see on the news scare them into not living a full life.
About the Author
Jordan Hickey is a bookstagrammer and booktuber who loves anything and everything related to young adult books. Her passions outside of reading include photography, finding the cutest coffee shops around, traveling, and playing tennis. She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she endures the endless heat waves but appreciates the amazing bookstores and incredible lattes.
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