Today in SP library, we've got a self published author, a young adult romance, and all the music for all the feels. Trust me, you want to stick around for this!
We Won't Feel A Thing
by JC Lillis
Blurb: Seventeen-year-old best friends Rachel and Riley are in forbidden love.
Their situation’s. . .complicated. And their timing couldn’t be worse—in just one month, he leaves for California and she starts college in New York. The absolute last thing they need is a reckless secret-love confession mucking up their perfect plans.
There’s only one logical option: scientific intervention.
Desperate for a quick fix, they sign up for WAVES, an experimental self-help program led by mysterious scientist David A. Kerning. He swears his Forbidden Love Module can turn passion back to safe platonic friendship in “six easy steps.”
But when you arm yourself with an untested program, side effects are unpredictable.
And sometimes when you fight love—love fights back.
The Music Behind The Story
I’m a total playlist nerd. So I owe KJett a couple dozen bacon cupcakes for letting my inner music geek share the soundtrack for my new YA contemporary fantasy, We Won’t Feel a Thing.
My husband told me someone on Goodreads shelved WWFaT under “teenage hipster card” (compliment? not? *shakes Magic 8 Ball*), so now I’m worried I’ve created a hipster-doofus playlist. I promise I’m not a real hipster. Most of my clothes are from Target and I listen to Pat Benatar unironically.
“Octopus’s Garden” | Eric Vel
“Octopus’s Garden” is one of those songs you’re born knowing—it’s like the entire Beatles catalog is imprinted on you at birth. So I’d never given it much thought until I stumbled on this ukulele cover of it. (I realize this makes me sound like Zooey Deschanel in a cotton commercial. I’m really sorry.)
If there was a WWFaT movie, this would be the opening-credits song. The lyrics sum up where the characters are at the beginning; that whole idea of building this safe, innocent kingdom with someone. Rachel and Riley are sort of each other’s private hideaway, but there’s a sense that Rachel’s growing out of that faster than Riley, and it’s sad to watch. That’s why I like this cover. It strips away some of the whimsy of the original and mines the wistfulness in the lyrics.
“I’m Sorry I Love You” | Magnetic Fields
If John Irving can have a bear in all his books, I figure I can have a Magnetic Fields song on every book playlist. I love how the music is dense and relentless but the lyrics are attempting this cool (unconvincing) detachment: let’s pretend it’s a work of art/let’s pretend it’s not my heart. It’s a great denial song. Almost everyone in the book is in deep denial, so it really fits.
“Hiding ‘neath My Umbrella” | God Help the Girl
I associate this song with David, the leader of the WAVES program that Rachel and Riley sign up for so they can stamp out their unwanted attraction. He’s all about emotional control: taking the safest route and not committing to love, like the lyrics say. He’s got his own subplot simmering in the background, because he’s totally infatuated with his coworker. I think of this song as a little dialogue between him and his secret hopes and fears about love.
“Apply Some Pressure” | Maxïmo Park
Rachel’s obsessed with this (fictional) band called Thirsty Herd—she puts them on when she needs a release. She kind of has anger issues and music’s a safe outlet: it yells so she doesn’t have to.
In my head, their music’s aggressive and snide, with a bratty intelligence. This song was a good stand-in musically, and the lyrics are a bonus—they really get at the jagged, twitchy, reckless side of wanting someone you can’t have.
“You Can Do Magic” | America
Some songs just take you to a different place the second you hit play. For me there’s something weirdly special about this slice of 70s AM-radio cheese. It reminds me of sun struggling through rainclouds; I wish I knew more about music theory so I could pinpoint why. I hear the first five seconds and I’m in the lobby of a gently run-down inn off the California coast. It’s called the Mermaid’s Mirror. The chandeliers are shaped like tentacles and on the seventh floor, there’s a mysterious room that’s been shut up for years. In chapter 5, you find out what happened there when Rachel and Riley were nine, and how it set their whole story in motion.
“Et Pourtant” | Charles Aznavour
This song—hee! I first heard it in high school; Madame Beebe was desperately trying to enliven French IV by bringing us pop songs to memorize for credit. One of my favorites was “Le Temps de L’Amour” by Francoise Hardy, which Wes Anderson already yoinked for Moonrise Kingdom. My other favorite was this spectacularly melodramatic ode to bad romance, which my friend and I used to sing the way the gods intended: in horrific French accents, with the backs of our hands pressed theatrically to our foreheads. Rachel and Riley hear it in a French restaurant where they do Step Two of the WAVES program and meet a nosy fake-French waiter who tragically serves them aphrodisiacs. (That is actually what happens. What is wrong with me?)
“Heads Will Roll” | Yeah Yeah Yeahs / “You Can Call Me Al” | Rough Island Band
In Step Three of WAVES, Rachel and Riley put these special goggles on and have separate visions of their ideal futures without each other. I associate these two songs with the personas they try on in the visions. I’d love to hear a mashup of this. It’d be like a duet between a Disney villainess and a shaggy artist waiting in line at a taco truck.
“Love is an Arrow” | Aberfeldy
I wrote the first version of WWFaT back in 2003, and this is the only track that survived the original playlist. I made a stop-motion book trailer and if I could’ve used this song without selling my left kidney to Aberfeldy, I totally would’ve. This song is the book to me. Love is an arrow and it points at me, it tells me how it’s gonna be. There are several literal arrows in the book. I won’t tell who they’re pointed at, and whether they hit their mark.
Riley’s music all sounds like this and the official story is that it drives Rachel nuts, although she secretly plays this album when he’s asleep.
“Bleeding Love” | Leona Lewis
In Step Four of WAVES, there’s a set piece structured around a song that holds special meaning for Rachel and Riley. The whole chapter tries to simulate how a popular song—even one that annoys you at the time—can become this magic memory charm that recreates exactly how you felt at a specific time in your life. I had to make up the song, which was really fun. It’s called “Bleed My Love,” but it’s inspired by “Bleeding Love”—I played the song over and over while I was writing the scene and used it as a blueprint for the vocals and music. You can actually sing some of the “Bleed My Love” lyrics to the tune of “Bleeding Love” and it works. And I can put on this song now and see an entire video set to that chapter. Every shot. I wish I could film it.
“The Union Forever” | White Stripes
There’s one part where Riley’s really mad, and he’s been watching a bunch of his dad’s bad action movies and trying on this tough-guy persona that doesn’t fit him at all. I imagine him blasting this song and singing at mirrors in this totally embarrassing way. Well I'm sorry but I'm not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping, or real estate. You’re made of stone if you can resist doing that part out loud. (It was between this one and Jack White’s “Love Interruption,” but this song is constructed entirely from Citizen Kane quotes, and weird always wins with me.)
“Dancing in the Moonlight” | King Harvest
This is played at an unhappy wedding reception by a band that’s having a Buckingham-Nicks-style interpersonal meltdown. They do a version of this easy-breezy celebration song that gets increasingly harrowing as it goes along. Everyone in the book is pretty much falling apart at this point.
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” | Velvet Underground
Lots of mirror imagery in WWFaT, so I couldn’t leave out this song. It’s weird and awkward and sweet, just like Rachel and Riley.
“The Richest Kids” | This Is Ivy League
Every soundtrack needs a happy-montage song, right? What I love best about this one is that judging from the title, you think maybe it's a jerky bragging song, and then the chorus is Though we haven’t got much money/You must admit it’s pretty funny/How they think we are the richest kids in town. It’s all about letting go of the things that keep you down and hold you back from happiness, so it’s just right for WWFaT.
“Butterfly Nets” | Bishop Allen
I knew of this song for about two years before I picked it for the playlist, and I actually used to skip over it in the car; I don't like listening to airy, wispy songs while I'm driving. But then one day I left it on and listened closely to the words, and it was a total gut punch. It’s like the song was commissioned for the end of this book. Like, if you don't want to know how WWFaT ends, don't listen to this. (If you do listen, buy tissues first.)
Huge thanks to Kristen for having me over today, and to you for listening. Hope you enjoy the book if you decide to check it out!
Thanks for the tunes, J.C.! I know I've got all the feels!
Kristen is the co-founder of Pen and Muse Press, and mostly writes YA + NA. You can find her at Twitter (likely discussing author marketing, bacon or book boyfriends), Facebook, or her website.