Something I don’t get to talk enough about on my blog is just how much I adore musicals! I’ve been a fan of them ever since my mum used to take me to them when I was a kid, my first memorable experience being seeing The Lion King. From there, I craved all that I could get. I saw Wicked and Hairspray and Matilda, and most recently, The Book of Mormon. But alas, because most of the well-known musicals haven’t crossed the ocean to Australia yet, I have to settle for listening to the soundtracks and dreaming about the day I get to see them live.
So today I thought I’d blend my love of musicals and books and recommend some YA books for fans of these particular musicals! If you need a little nudge to listen to some of these and enjoyed the books I’ve paired with them, I definitely recommend going and finding a soundtrack – or even seeing it live if you can! Let’s flail about all the best musicals together.
Never before have I fallen in love with a novel as quickly as I did with What if it’s Us. This gorgeous novel, co-written by two of my favourite YA authors of all time, captivated me from the very first page in its glorious descriptions of New York City and the way it casually dropped references to some of my favourite musicals into the narrative. And not to mention, there’s a swoon-worthy queer romance that’s so cute it turned my heart into mush. If you’re obsessed with Dear Evan Hansen like I am, regardless of whether you like YA contemporaries, you have to read this book just for all the references. I mean, What if it’s Us is literally named after a song in Dear Evan Hansen.
This is probably the least creative of my selections here, but it had to be said. There have been a few YA novels about the history of Alexander Hamilton since the success of the musical we all know and love, but Alex & Eliza has definitely been my favourite. Although it does just repeat the history of these two figures’ lives and is a little bit of overkill for people who’ve already tackled Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, it’s a really fun, quick read. As you’d expect, Alex & Eliza reintroduces the characters we’ve fallen in love with from the musical and allows us to get to know them in a more in-depth way than we could just get from audio alone. This one’s a must-read for all Hamilton fans.
Mean Girls was honestly one of the most iconic movies of my childhood and I’m sure, like most of you, I could probably quote the entire film from start to finish. And now we can do the same with the musical! To say I’m obsessed would be an understatement, and if there’s any book that gives me Mean Girls vibes, it’s Tiny Pretty Things. From a musical set in a high school with a girl who infiltrates The Plastics to a dance academy where there are fake friendships and people pitted against one another who are willing to do whatever it takes to be the lead dancer, I’d say this comparison is a pretty fair one.
Putting a musical about devout Mormons and a novel about a heretic together might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. One of the things I loved most about this musical and this incredible YA novel was the humour. They’re both such fun things to experience while also incorporating some deeper themes, like what religion actually is and how belief differs in different people. While The Book of Mormon is perhaps one of the most popular musicals of this decade, I just need more people to join me in flailing about Heretics Anonymous. If you enjoyed the humour and the mentions of religion in The Book of Mormon and its sometimes hypocritical nature, then you’ll adore Heretics Anonymous.
A musical featuring two girls and an origin story of an ‘evil’ character and a book featuring a queer retelling of Snow White… these two might not be the most obvious pairing, but hear me out. Something that unites these two masterpieces is that the characters are ambitious. They know what they want, and sometimes they’re underestimated. I also love the exploration of the relationships between the two female characters in both Wicked and Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I’ll ship Glinda and Elphaba together until the end of time.
Hairspray was one of the first musicals I ever saw, and it has such a special place in my heart for that very same reason. And it’s undoubtably one of the most famous musicals ever! One of the things I loved most about it was, of course, the body positivity and and humour that was scattered throughout a story that was very much about discrimination and privilege. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things is similar in that it stars a plus sized protagonist who’s on a journey towards embracing the person she is and understanding she doesn’t have to fit into a mould in order to be accepted by society. But it’s also about family tensions and what happens when someone close to her is accused of sexual assault. What unites these two is how they use humour and positivity to tackle the darker issues that prevail in both stories, and I love the messages they contain.
Another successful movie that was transformed into a musical — and I couldn’t be happier about that! Legally Blonde tackles issues of expectations and trying to be the best version of yourself you can be, and that you don’t need to rely on anyone to do that, and I just love the film and the musical with all of my heart. And although When Dimple Met Rishi differs slightly in that most of the pressure Dimple faces is from her parents and not an unsupportive boyfriend, these two incredible creations are united by how these protagonists are two of the most inspirational woman I’ve ever seen — and can only aspire to be like. What queens.
Wow — I just have no words to describe how much I love this musical. I saw a play version of it a while back, which I loved, and then I watched the TV series about a fictional school who performed this musical despite conservatives not wanting it to be shown, and then I listened to the soundtrack on repeat. Spring Awakening deals with so many issues, from sexual assault, to homophobia, to suicide, to rebelling against society, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. Although Autoboyography definitely is nowhere near as dark as the musical, it does deal with themes such as religion and homophobia and embracing the person you truly are, and if you’re a fan of those aspects in Spring Awakening, you’ll love Autoboyography.
Although there was definitely less breaking into song and dance mid-scene than I would have liked from Open Road Summer, it’s still a perfect read for people who love Mamma Mia! and fun, summery books about friendship and love. What Open Road Summer lacks in setting (if only it took place on a Greek island), love interests for the protagonist’s mother (I only accept three from now on), and most recently, the addition of Cher (come on, let’s face it — she was the best part of Mamma Mia 2… even if that one hasn’t been adapted to stage yet), it makes up for in a swoon-worthy romance and epic, all-American locations.
Are you a fan of musicals? What are some of your favourite musical-type books or novels that remind you of musicals? Do you agree with my selections? Let’s chat!