Behind the Song ed. by K. M. Walton, (review)
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Reviewed by
Walton, K. M., ed. Behind the Song. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017 [400p]
ISBN 978-1-4926-3881-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10

Following an editorial introduction and a somewhat cliché-ridden preface about the power of music, fourteen writers offer eleven short stories and three personal essays inspired by popular rock and folk songs from various decades. The authors include such literary notables as Ellen Oh, James Howe, Beth Kephart, David Arnold and Ellen Hopkins, and others known more for their musical accomplishments, such as Ameriie, Donn T, and G. Love, and the pieces themselves show some diversity in terms of prose genres, including memoirs, stories behind the lyrics, and realistic, magical realist, and speculative fiction. While most of the inspirational songs are mainstream MTV and Grammy favorites, interfering with the book’s stated goal of spurring teen readers to musical discovery, the entries are compelling. Mood ranges from humorous (Arnold), to very dark (Hopkins), to uplifting (Howe, Kephart, Donn T), to melancholy (Oh). Also included are a creepy attempted rape/revenge fantasy, mean girl realism, and a few unusual romances. Given teens’ attachment to music, this range could inspire their own experiments to use song lyrics as a springboard for imaginative genre fiction and creative nonfiction.

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