Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track
This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".
1. "brutal": War and Speech by Don Zolidis
War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been far from a teenage dream, and she's hoping to use taking down the obnoxious speech and debate team at her new school as the cherry on top of a lackluster high school career filled with a little too much mischief. But then she starts winning her events? And she likes it? She even finds a job writing ironic phrases on cookie cakes at the mall... and things start looking up somehow. But Sydney still very much remains very ready to quit her job and start a new life.
Sydney's Favorite Lyric: "Who am I if not exploited?"
My Favorite Lyric: "I'm so sick of seventeen/Where's my fucking teenage dream"
2. "traitor": It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland
This one was also an easy match. I'd just finished reading It Goes Like This, and "you didn't cheat, but you're still a traitor" perfectly sums up Eva's feelings towards Celeste at the start of the book. While that's not the vibe for the entire story, Eva was deeply hurt by Celeste and she feels like Celeste conspired against her to bring on the end of the band behind her back. Eva struggles to reconcile still loving Celeste while most definitely viewing her as a traitor to their band and their relationship.
Eva's Favorite Lyric: "God, I wish you thought this through/Before I went and fell in love with you"
My Favorite Lyric: "You betrayed me/And I know that you'll never be sorry/For the way I hurt"
3. "drivers license": We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
"drivers license" is all about sitting with your sadness and your grief, and that's definitely a central theme in We Are Okay. I've seen both the song and the book referred to as "devastating", so be prepared. Marin is reckoning with her past while locked in the dorms in New York over Christmas break. When Mabel arrives from California, Marin finally gets the chance to confront everything that happened. Mabel's arrival feels a bit like driving down a street you no longer have a reason to visit.
Marin's Favorite Lyric: "You said forever now I drive alone past your street"
My Favorite Lyric: "I got my drivers license last week/Just like we always talked about"
4. "1 step forward, 3 steps back": What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
What I Like About You was one of my favorite books of 2020 because it's about a book blogger and I'm obviously a book blogger. I'd never felt so seen before. But aside from baking cupcakes and juggling publishers, Halle's job also comes with a secret online identity- Kels. When Halle moves and discovers that she now goes to school with one of her online best friends, she struggles with whether to reveal her Hannah Montana life to him. With every step forward in their relationship IRL and online, it's also a massive step back because the betrayal will be even bigger when the whole Halle/Kels situation comes to life.
Halle's Favorite Line: "It's back and forth, going over everything I said"
My Favorite Line: "I'm the love of your life until I make you mad"
5. "deja vu": The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
Okay, this one is pretty purely on the vibes. This song is so light and breezy and fun. The music video also features a food truck, which is a prominent aspect of The Way You Make Me Feel. Clara is forced to work on her father's food truck with her least favorite person ever, Rose Carver, when a prank goes wrong. This book is set in LA, which is close to the Malibu setting of the song, and they're both just full of easy summer fun. Maurene always makes me laugh with her book, and I think that's what this summer needs.
Clara's Favorite Lyric: "I made the jokes you tell to her when she's with you"
My Favorite Lyric: "I bet that she knows Billy Joel cause you played her 'Uptown Girl'"
6. "good 4 u": Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
This song is pure adrenaline and a pop punk moment on the album. While Ollie doesn't have a Jennifer's Body moment in the school hallways and actually has a pretty even temper, he can definitely relate to Olivia's frustration. After a magical summer at the lake, Ollie finds out that he's actually transferring to the same school as his summer fling, Will. Except, at school, Will doesn't seem to know him at all, and everything at the lake might as well have never happened. While there's plenty of explanations in the book, Ollie still has plenty of frustration over how perfectly fine Will seems to be without him.
Ollie's Favorite Lyric: "Good for you, you look happy and healthy/Not me, if you ever cared to ask"
My Favorite Lyric: "Remember when you swore to god I was the only person who got you/Well screw that and screw you/You will never have to hurt the way you know that I do"
7. "enough for you": Yolk by Mary HK Choi
My favorite way to interpret "enough for you" is through the lens of a parent-child relationship instead of a break-up. It was my first thought when I heard the song, and I've seen people on TikTok talking about it as well. There's a deep want and even a need to make your parents proud of you, even if you know those choices won't be the best for yourself. While Jayne's story branches into so many different areas, grappling with her relationship with her parents becomes a central thread.
Jayne's Favorite Lyric: "Tried so hard to be everything you liked/Just for you to say you're not the compliment type"
My Favorite Lyric: "I read all your self help books/So you would think that I was smart"
8. "happier": Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao
Chloe is coming home from college and needs a decoy boyfriend so that her parents can't set her up with their acquaintance's horrible son. That's where the Rent a Boyfriend service comes in. Drew is a great diversion tactic, but he might be a bit too good at his job because Chloe starts to fall for him over the course of the holiday. For Drew, too, the line between work and his feelings start to blur, but after the vacation is over, Drew has to go back to his job of being everyone else's boyfriends for a weekend. This is surprisingly upsetting to Chloe who realizes that she wants Drew in her life for more than a helping hand. Before they can make it official, though, Chloe is definitely crying to "happier", hoping that he feels the same way.
Chloe's Favorite Lyric: "But she's so sweet, she's so pretty/Does that mean you forgot about me?"
My Favorite Lyric: "An eternal love bullshit you know you'll never mean"
9. "jealousy, jealousy": Look by Zan Romanoff
SOUR takes a different turn towards the end of the album when Olivia takes a bass driven moment to reflect on what perfectly edited internet culture has done to all of our perceptions of ourselves. You can be the girl who looks perfect online and still fall into the trap of jealousy and negative feelings spawned by other people's online perfection. In Look, Lulu is in the thick of navigating all of that as a small creator on a new app herself. She glamorizes her own life and watches everyone else do the same. But the internet also makes her feel messy and exposed. Look is the best YA exploration of what it means to grow up in an online world as a teen that I've read. It feels totally authentic and never becomes condescending. It's a perfect match for "jealousy, jealousy".
Lulu's Favorite Lyric: "And I see everyone gettin' all the things I want/I'm happy for them, but then again, I'm not"
My Favorite Lyric: "I kinda wanna throw my phone across the room/Cause all I see are girls too good to be true"
10. "favorite crime": The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
"favorite crime" is one of my favorite songs on the album, but it was the hardest to match with a story. After staring at my shelf for a while, I decided to lean into this song literally and choose The Best Lies, a story about toxic friendship, bad choices, broken promises, and a murder. While there's an actual crime to tie the song and book together, I also saw parallels between Remi and Elise's friendship and the romance in the song. Remi loves Elise so much that she'd follow her to the ends of the earth without question. In the song, Olivia realizes how dangerous that is but also acknowledges that those infatuations are so strong that you don't get to choose them rationally.
Remi's Favorite Lyric: "You used me as an alibi/Crossed my heart as you crossed the line"
My Favorite Lyric: "But I say that I hate you with a smile on my face"
11. "hope ur okay": Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan
Some Girls Do is my new favorite YA book of the month. I am absolutely head over heels for this one. I decided to pair it with this song because Olivia tells lots of stories of her LGBTQIA friends who are stuck in bad situations. In the second verse in particular, Olivia tells a story that reminds me of one of the main characters, Ruby. Ruby is looking to win a scholarship to go to a college with a good automotive program and get off the pageant circuit and out of her homophobic and abusive mother's house. Despite dealing with some intense topics, Some Girls Do is also a really great love story and has some absolutely hilarious moments. Also, if you like "hope ur okay", you'll really love "The Story" by Conan Gray.
Ruby's Favorite Lyric: "But god I hope you're happier today"
My Favorite Lyric: "Nothings forever, nothing's as good as it seems"
More on Sour
My Thoughts on the "Deja Vu" Music Video