Even though I’m a millennial and not a cool Gen Z’er, I’ve still been listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album, “SOUR” ever since it dropped earlier this spring. What can I say? Music that slaps, slaps; no reasoning necessary. Just like my posts on here that gave you personalized book recommendations based on Taylor Swift’s “folklore” and “evermore” albums, I’ve decided to do that for Rodrigo’s newly released album, too. Just like those two previous posts, I combed through each song off the album for core messages, lyrics, themes, and stories to see if any reminded me of some of my favorite books. So, keep reading for an assortment of book recommendations based on each “SOUR” track.
Writer’s Note: In case you were wondering how I put this post together, know that I was meticulous in my choices. Much like my “evermore” and “folklore” recommendations, I listened to each track while simultaneously studying the lyrics. From there, I went to both my digital and physical bookshelves, my Storygraph already-read list, where I aimed to search for at least one book I’ve read that at least somewhat fits the song’s lyrics or stories. Now, of course, not all are perfect matches, since they are both original works. But, I tried to pull books with a similar plotline, character, love story, or something quite similar to one another.
Try: Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
This song has such an angsty feel, plus lines about insecurities, exploitation, and even “I’m so sick of 17. Where’s my f*cking teenage dream?” From the moment I first listened to it, I felt my eyes drift over to my Tiny Pretty Things copy. This book follows a gaggle of girls at their prestigious ballet school in New York, who would do anything to be the star, no matter how dark. These girls are willing to play dirty to tear their competition down, which reminds me of the grit and angst in the song. Plus, much of the song is Olivia being insecure which I can see bits of Bette, June, and Gigi coming out.
Here, I’ll show you:
I feel like no one wants me (Gigi being the new girl at school)
And I hate the way I’m perceived (June, totally June)
I only have two real friends (Gigi, but also June)
And lately, I’m a nervous wreck (June!)
‘Cause I love people I don’t like (Bette)
And I hate every song I write (All three with all their insecurities)
And I’m not cool and I’m not smart (Again, all three with all their insecurities)
Try: Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
The twist, oh, the twist! When I listened to this track, I thought of that giant twist about halfway through. In this enemies-to-lovers story full of witty banter, twentysomething Brinkley works at “Heartbreak for Hire,” a Chicago-based company that helps women take back their power and get revenge on the men that jilted them. This undercover gig helps her earn enough money to eventually open her own gallery, while still getting her frustrations out on her ex and helping to empower other women. When her boss reveals her plans to hire male employees, she questions whether or not she’s in the right field. She learns her former target Mark, with who she had a brief flirtation, is hired to work on her team. As she trains him, they get closer and she falls for the nerdy professor. Yet, the big twist comes when she realizes he’s ********** [potential spoiler has been redacted]. And because of that, he’s sort of a traitor to her and the company alike. Sure, he didn’t cheat, but this book was full of their “twisted games” and betrayal that hurt her.
Try: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
From the first stanza, I kept going back to Bea and her ex slash old crush, Ray. From the lines, “I got my driver’s license last week just like we always talked about ’cause you were so excited for me to finally drive up to your house,” I felt a similar tone to where Bea was at trying to move forward after all the things Ray always said to her about them. But then, “today I drove through the suburbs, crying ’cause you weren’t around” because he was with
that blonde girl his fiancee. The whole book is built around the premise of Bea coping with her broken heart that Ray smashed into a million tiny pieces, which is pure Olivia to me. Plus, the line about insecurity and “how could I ever love someone else” is totally where Bea’s head is at. 100 percent.
Try: Hot Mess by Emily Belden
While Allie was dealing with an addict ex-boyfriend that leads her in different directions, that push-and-pull gave me a similar vibe to this track. With the lines, “And maybe in some masochistic way, I couldn’t find it all exciting like which lover will I get today? Will you walk me to the door or send me home crying” that really reminded me of the beginning of this book, where some days Benji is this talented genius who’s head-over-heels in love with her or the tortured addict who walked out on her. Benji definitely “got [her] f*cked up in the head” this entire book. The back-and-forth of this read does show how she ends up doubting if she can run a restaurant after he bails and their “one step forward and three steps back” relationship that has her so confused. Allie meet Olivia and Olivia meet Allie, you girls have a lot in common.
Try: Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
The whole premise of this book gives off serious déjà vu, truly. The whole concept is that it follows the same couple on the same day (and end-of-school-year trip) each year for the four years they are in high school. Whether Lulu and Alex are together or apart, the book mimics the same day. Then, there’s the line, “So when you gonna tell her that we did that, too? She thinks it’s special, but it’s all reused. That was our place, I found it first,” which to me goes back to Lulu spotting her ex Alex at Six Flags with his new girl giving her a Jolly Rancher candy, just like he used to gave to Lulu between classes. So much tracks. So much.
Try: Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon
Just focused on the very beginning of the book, it does somewhat resemble this angsty AF song. The whole premise is that the one who broke your heart has completely moved on when you are still a mess. That reminds me of the post-Vegas hookup between Annika and Hudson when they disappear from each other’s life. Then, he reappears in her office building and is a total work success while she’s struggling. The lines “Well, good for you, you look happy and healthy … Good for you, you’re doin’ great out there without me” seems to fit that for me. Especially as Olivia continues on, “Well, good for you, I guess you’re gettin’ everything you want. You bought a new car and your career’s really takin’ off. It’s like we never even happened.” Then, from the flip side, once we learn about the purpose of Hudson’s app: This song applies to that too.
Try: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella
This song reminded me of Matt and Ava once they returned from their whirlwind vacation/writer’s retreat. After they returned home to London, they discovered they were quite different and she “tried so hard to be everything that you liked” even if it wasn’t true to herself. She stayed in his modern apartment with his slobby roommates, slept on his uncomfortable bed, rarely went to her own house, let his parents drone on and on about his ex who’s so much better than her. The line about “I wore makeup when we dated ’cause I thought you’d like me more if I looked like the other prom queens I know that you loved before” and “maybe I’m just not as interesting as the girls you had before” really stood out to me about that part involving her insecurity about his ex-girlfriend. She tried to change herself so much just to be enough for this man she loved, which was just like what Olivia sang about.
Try: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
While this wasn’t an exact match, something about this book stuck out to me while I listened to “happier” and read through the lyrics. The whole concept of the book is that Naomi and Nick are unhappily engaged and searching for a way out, without getting stuck with the massive wedding bill. As they try to get the other to back out first and start in on their childish pranks back-and-forth, I felt the chorus sort of captured Naomi’s mindset as she realized one day he will marry the societally accepted woman that his mom would love and she’d be alone or with some fling. So, the lyrics of “Oh, I hope you’re happy, but not like how you were with me. I’m selfish, I know, I can’t let you go” kind of reminded me of that, where she knows they aren’t right for one another at this point yet can’t seem to walk away first. Plus, their whole cat-and-mouse games reminded me of the part of the song that goes, “So find someone great but don’t find no one better. I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.” Just as heartbreaking!
Try: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
This was another song I just couldn’t quite find the right book recommendation that matched. Before I landed on Dumplin, I was stuck on the lyrics about confidence versus insecurity especially in terms of looks and relating to the whole body positivity movement. I saw the lines “I kinda wanna throw my phone across the room ’cause all I see are girls too good to be true with paper-white teeth and perfect bodies. Wish I didn’t care,” “But it feels like that weight is on my back and I can’t let it go,” and “Comparison is killin’ me slowly. I think, I think too much” and thought about Will’s struggles with her body images, not believing a boy like Bo could want her as she was or that she could enter or win the beauty pageant.
Try: Lore by Alexandra Bracken
While I definitely clocked the song relating to a romantic couple, I thought Lore related to the same story just not in a romantic way. I compared this track’s message to the twist after Lore decided to bind her fate to her so-called mentor in an attempt to save the world. If you listen to the lines “Know that I loved you so bad, I let you treat me like that. I was your willing accomplice, honey” or “And I watched as you fled the scene, doe-eyed as you buried me,” I saw a similarity to how she blindly decided to follow her mentor of sorts, Athena. Then, there’s the part about “you used me as an alibi” and how “I crossed my heart as you crossed the line,” which definitely could be the soundtrack to that big twist/reveal scene.
Try: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
As I listened to these lyrics, I heard Olivia sing about how she once knew this boy and sort of watched him from afar, wishing he’d just be okay even if they never saw one another again. That sort of reminded me of this book I read as an ARC last year when Quinn and Minnie kept randomly meeting once a year. From the lines “I knew a boy once when I was small. A tow-head blond with eyes of salt,” that reminded me of this read. Plus, even though they “fell out of touch” and didn’t “know if I’ll see you again someday,” they still wanted everything to work out with them each time met and tried to make their day/night better each time they re-met.