The bookish community is in a tizzy over the release of the Daisy Jones series in March (personally, I thought it would work better as a movie or series when I read the book, so I’m excited to be proven right). Here are a few other books to scratch that “I’m with the band” itch you may have!
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job–despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early ’70s New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.
Hunter never expected to be a boy band star, but, well, here he is. He and his band Kiss & Tell are on their first major tour of North America, playing arenas all over the United States and Canada (and getting covered by the gossipy press all over North America as well). Hunter is the only gay member of the band, and he just had a very painful breakup with his first boyfriend — leaked sexts, public heartbreak, and all — and now everyone expects him to play the perfect queer role model for teens. But Hunter isn’t really sure what being the perfect queer kid even means. Does it mean dressing up in whatever The Label tells him to wear for photo shoots and pretending never to have sex? (Unfortunately, yes.) Does it mean finding community among the queer kids at the meet-and-greets after K&T’s shows? (Fortunately, yes.) Does it include a new relationship with Kaivan, the drummer for the band opening for K&T on tour? (He hopes so.) But when The Label finds out about Hunter and Kaivan, it spells trouble — for their relationship, for the perfect gay boy Hunter plays for the cameras, and, most importantly, for Hunter himself.
The Mambo Kings Play Songs by Oscar Hijuelos
It’s 1949 and two young Cuban musicians make their way from Havana to the grand stage of New York City. It is the era of mambo, and the Castillo brothers, workers by day, become stars of the dance halls by night, where their orchestra plays the lush, sensuous, pulsing music that earns them the title of the Mambo Kings. This is their moment of youth, exuberance, love, and freedom — a golden time that decades later is remembered with nostalgia and deep affection. Hijuelos’s marvelous portrait of the Castillo brothers, their families, their fellow musicians and lovers, their triumphs and tragedies, re-creates the sights and sounds of an era in music and an unsung moment in American life.
It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland
Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph used to think their friendship was unbreakable. After all, they’ve been through a lot together, including the astronomical rise of Moonlight Overthrow, the world-famous queer pop band they formed in middle school, never expecting to headline anything bigger than the county fair.But after a sudden falling out leads to the dissolution of the teens’ band, their friendship, and Eva and Celeste’s starry-eyed romance, nothing is the same. Gina and Celeste step further into the spotlight, Steph disappears completely, and Eva, heartbroken, takes refuge as a songwriter and secret online fangirl…of her own band. That is, until a storm devastates their hometown, bringing the four ex-best-friends back together. As they prepare for one last show, they’ll discover whether growing up always means growing apart.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs.
Joe Harper has backpedaled throughout his life. A once-promising guitar prodigy, he’s been living without direction since abandoning his musical dreams. Now into his 30s, having retreated from every opportunity he’s had to level up, he has lost his family, his best friend, and his own self-respect. But Joe finds an unlikely path to redemption when he starts working as a carpenter for the bohemian conceptual artist October Danko. The job returns him to his hometown, loaded with bittersweet reminders of his former life, in the shadows of his beloved redwood trees. As Joe’s relationship with October develops, he yearns to take a daring step toward a bold future, but struggles to escape the craven decisions of his past. Sorrow is a stunning, moving novel that explores masculinity and suspended adolescence, all the while begging the questions: Can courage be learned? And is it ever too late to follow your heart?
If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartthrobs in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.
But privately, the pressure to stay in the closet has Ruben confiding in Zach. On a whirlwind tour through Europe with an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, the two come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben realize they will never truly have the support they need. How can they hold tight to each other when their whole world is coming apart?
Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
Raised on an island off Massachusetts by a mother who wrote songs for famous musicians, Jane Quinn is singing in her own band before she’s old enough to even read music. When folk legend Jesse Reid hears about Jane’s performance at the island’s music festival, a star is born — and so is a passionate love affair: they become inseparable when her band joins him on tour. Wary of being cast as his girlfriend — and haunted by her mother’s shattered ambitions — Jane shields her relationship from the public eye, but Jesse’s star power pulls her into his orbit of fame. Caught up in the thrill of the road and the profound and lustful connection she has with Jesse, Jane is blind-sided by the discovery she makes about the dark secret beneath his music.
Ellen Whitfield is senior publicist at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.
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