There’s a reason why young adult literature is so popular. There are few things in this world more magical than a first love, as evidenced by the many widely loved YA romance books and romcoms in the world. As I was a tremendous loser in high school, I never found that epic teenage love. But that didn’t stop me from writing several books about it. Today, I’ve created a playlist that never fails to inspire my YA and NA romance writing. Give it a listen! You just might find yourself inspired, too.
Summer in Your 20s by STRLING
I discovered STRLING pretty recently, but I’ve had their EP Be Alright on repeat for a while now! As summer comes to a close, I definitely find myself connecting to the lyrics—takeout in the back of a car and cheap beer? Sounds like the perfect afternoon. Having spent a day or two drinking cheap beer under the stars with friends, I can definitely say that this song brings me right back there and helps me capture the feeling as I’m writing about it.
Dream Boy by Waterparks
I’ve included Waterparks on a bunch of playlists thus far, and for good reason! Though they formed in 2011, they have the same punk pop vibes as long players like All Time Low and Blink-182. When I’m writing about an angsty bad boy on a motorcycle (who’s of course never based off of JD from Heathers, why would you even say that?) there’s no better song to turn to.
Teenage Crime by Adrian Lux
This song just conjures images of sneaking into a dance club a-ala The Nine Lives of Chloe King or Shadowhunters. The beat in the background and mentions of sneaking around after dark make me want to write about ALL the dark alleys and abandoned theaters and midnight rendezvous. Bonus points if the characters are trapped in a dystopian society or running from bad guys.
1985 by Hotel Apache
Yes, Hotel Apache is on the playlist like every week and no, I will not apologize. You guys, I seriously cannot express how much I love this band. They were the soundtrack of my senior year of college, and I eagerly await news of their new songs pretty much constantly. 1985 was the first song I heard of theirs, and it screams both 80s and contemporary teen romance. I wish I’d had someone to be curled up under the covers talking to late into the night when I was in high school. But even though I didn’t, that doesn’t mean I won’t write a story about it someday!
Can’t Sleep So I’ll Drive by Don’t Believe in Ghosts
You know that moment in YA thrillers and SciFis where everything slows and the characters are allowed to just be for a second and a half? As much as I love action sequences and puzzle solving, these are some of my favorite scenes. When the aloof, hard-to-know hero or heroine finally softens up and reveals something new about themselves, it’s hard not to fall in love. Can’t Sleep so I’ll Drive reminds me of these slowed-down moments, and it also reminds me of driving down the highway late at night with friends. All in all, this song puts me in a very nostalgic mindset that’s perfect for writing.
DIZZY by Dreamers
I’m more than a little bit obsessed with the new Dreamers album, which is titled LAUNCH FLY LAND. Though the whole album is absolutely amazing and well worth the listen, DIZZY was my pick for this playlist because it reminds me of frantic, uncontrollable young love that makes it hard to see straight. The music itself, particularly the guitar, is easy to get lost in, just like it’s easy to get lost in young love. The moral of the story is, if you’re writing about frantic, uncontrollable young love, listen to LAUNCH FLY LAND. You can thank me later.
Heartstopper by Loyals
This song definitely drifts from the world of YA into NA territory, to the world of dark heroines and dimly lit bars. The first line is “well I heard somebody say you’re famous,” which obviously fulfills my every daydream of running into my favorite celebrity in a bar and having them fall in love with me immediately. I can speak from experience: meeting your favorite celebrity does feel a bit like a bullet to the chest. But in a good way. Anyways, I’m off to write a scene that’s definitely not based off of anyone in particular.
The Black and White by The Band Camino
I love love love the Band Camino, as you may or may not have picked up on. And since it seemed time for a sad(ish) song on this playlist, today’s pick is The Black and White. To me, this song speaks about the inevitability of some things. After high school, many friends and lovers go their separate ways. After college, you may find yourself torn between the person you love and the new life waiting for you. If you’re writing a young lovers’ breakup scene (not an easy task, especially if you’ve gone through it), this song is perfect for getting you in that mindset. Much like listening to sad music after something sad happens can be cathartic, listening to sad music can help you write sad scenes—you’re losing something as you write them, even if it’s just fiction.
Holding You by Great Good Fine OK
Everyone in relationships tends to make a lot of mistakes. It’s just that young people make a disproportionate amount of them. So, when I hear a song like HOLDING YOU about regrets and missed chances and dumb mistakes, I tend to associate it with YA or NA characters. The beat in the back of this song is calming and inspiring all at once, and has the same dreamlike quality that all of Great Good Fine Ok’s music seems to have. For me, this song screams second chance young romance, and it’s a great song to inspire your next lovers to strangers to lovers story.
Twenty Something by Nightly
We interrupt this mostly upbeat playlist to bring you another sad song. Like I said, breaking up is a natural part of life. It happens to all of us, and it hurts every time. Twenty Something is a song about breakups, but it’s also full of hope. The protagonists are “only twenty something,” and there’s plenty of time for them to find each other again. This song is about two young lovers who have a connection that’s not just going to disappear, no matter the circumstances that pull them apart. This song is perfect for the second chance romance writer, or anyone who needs a little bit of hope that it’s not over yet.
Love is beautiful no matter when it finds you, and in what form. I just happen to be partial to young love! I hope this playlist has inspired you to go forth and write about some young lovers of your own. Listen to the full playlist here.