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1. Dessa – Poor Atlas 2. Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Kanya – Monster 3. Beyonce – Grown Woman 4. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Rejoice 5. Bright Eyes – The First Day of my Life 6. Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No 7. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You 8. Final Fantasy VII Soundtrack – Aerith’s Theme 9. Deadmau5 – Professional Griefers 10. Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster 11. The Knife – Heartbeats’12. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day13. The Mountain Goats – This Year14. Rilo Kiley – A Better Son or Daughter 15. Garth Brooks – The Dance
1. Dessa – Poor Atlas
To me, this song represents the agony and frustration of constructing a new self and coming to terms with one’s body as part of transition.
2. Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Kanye – Monster
There’s a toxic masculinity at play in Kanye and Jay Z’s verses that would be right at home in Parker’s heart, but there’s a lot of Bee in there too, especially in Nicki’s verse, though her ardent refusal to compromise and her apparent glee in throwing her happiness/success in the face of the listener has a lot in common with Virginia’s easy confidence as well. There’s also an element of trans culture where we embrace the idea, aesthetically, that we’re monsters and the Other and accentuate that, revelling in what we’ve been told is repulsive about us.
3. Beyonce – Grown Woman
This is where Virginia starts, and it’s where Amanda lands by the end of the book.
4. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Rejoice
Such a perfect mix of nihilism, hope, faith, and grace, this song is absolutely Amanda’s take on life, especially by the end. The world’s crappy in a lot of ways, and the odds have been against her from the beginning, and it hurts so much, but dammit she’s going to rejoice anyway, even if it doesn’t make any sense.
5. Bright Eyes – The First Day of My Life
Such an absolutely perfect love song. “This is the first day of my life. I’m glad I didn’t die before I met you.” Amanda could be singing this exact line to Grant. “But I’d rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.” Grant to Amanda. This is the song of their love. The lyrics don’t exactly match, but the texture and tone of sentiment fused with anxiety and fatigue, almost like the singer is giving up to love, are right there.
6. Marina and the Diamonds – Oh No
Layla Layla Layla Layla. This song is how Layla thinks of herself.
7. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You
Here is the inside of Chloe’s heart. Here is how she feels about Bee, the first girl like her she ever met and the love of her life up to this point. And isn’t it just perfectly Chloe in general? Ethereal, dreamy, and distinctly country, but with an undercurrent of persistent intensity and romanticism.
8. Final Fantasy VII Soundtrack – Aerith’s Theme
Amanda does her best to hide it for most of the book, but she really is a tremendous nerd. It’s not her favourite in the series by far, but the love story at the core of Final Fantasy VII resonates so hard with the hopeless, tragic romantic in her that she still tears up a little whenever she hears the theme of Cloud and Aerith’s doomed love.
9. Deadmau5 – Professional Griefers
The jittering, stilted beat of this song, combined with the harsh vocals and jarring imagery perfectly evoke the bitter numbness of Amanda in the years before she transitioned and the months after her bathroom assault, when the only way she knew how to live was to lock herself away from the world and bob her head to EDM/techno in the darkness of her room.
10. Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster
This song, with its themes of recursive self improvement, plays when it does in the book for a reason: it’s the moment Amanda finally resolves to engage with the world again, to give living one more shot. It’s the first time she dances with other human beings!
11. The Knife – Heartbeats
Here is the inside of Bee’s heart: dark, moody, thumping, angry, ambiguously sexualized, and, under a veil of pain and mysticism and doom, hopelessly romantic in the most destructive way.
12. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
Anna hasn’t been in love yet, and she hasn’t known anyone who died of cancer, so the lyrics aren’t literal (but who cares about lyrics being literal in anything except show tunes?), but this song perfectly sums up her faith. Her belief in God is so absolutely detached from that of her family and most of her peers, because she is at her core a real Christian. Hers is a faith of service, love, earnest doubt, and vulnerability. When she does fall in love, if she ever has room for romantic love, she’ll experience it in tones like this, though hopefully the ending will be different.
13. The Mountain Goats – This Year
Another case of tone and subtext completely trumping lyrical specificity. The driving, thumping beat, the chorus, the themes of desperation on the cusp of adulthood and detachment from a parent, this song is so perfectly Amanda at the beginning of the book. If you disagree I will fight you.
14. Rilo Kiley – A Better Son or Daughter
It’s a song about overcoming despair and mental illness even though it seems impossible. Believe it or not, this song is as much for Amanda’s dad as it is for her.
15. Garth Brooks – The Dance
Let’s be real a second: high school romances don’t generally last. If we assume Grant and Amanda eventually break up and move on with their lives (bear in mind I’m not saying that’s what happens) this song is how he’d remember Amanda.