Hi everyone! In the past on the blog, we have written a few posts celebrating new releases by Taylor Swift by recommending books based on her songs – and when Halsey came out with If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, we thought why not do the same? Today we bring you 26 book recommendations – two for each song on the album! We hope you enjoy!
“Take what you want, take what you can
Take what you please, don’t give a damn
It’s in the blood and this is tradition“
“Oh, the loneliest girl in town
Is bought for pennies a price
We dress her up in lovely gowns
She’s easy on the eyes“
Sabrina: I recently finished reading this fantastic YA fantasy book and I think it fits this song well! Wyatt is a witch that is betrothed, against his will, to the prince of the fae kingdom. He hates the expectations that have been placed on him as a result of this tradition and there are even more layers to this because Wyatt is trans. He’s rightfully angry about the situation, and this is reflected in his “don’t give a damn” attitude. I also like that the book often references his black magical energy/aura, and there is a line in the song that mentions a black soul.
Vera: The part quoted above instantly made me think of Ismae from Grave Mercy and how her father sells her to a man at the beginning of the novel. More than that, I think this series fits nicely with this album as both are about female empowerment.
Bells in Santa Fe
“Don’t call me by my name
All of this is temporary
Watch as I slip away for your sake
All of this is temporary”
“Well, maybe I could hold you in the dark
You won’t even notice me depart“
Sabrina: For this song, I have gone with How To Catch a Queen! A big part of this adult romance is that though Queen Shanti and King Sanyu are technically married, the King of Njaza typically gets a new wife every four months, until he finds the “true queen” – so their marriage is seen as temporary by most people. Shanti isn’t afforded the political power that she was hoping for with the position of queen, and I would relate that to the lyrics “I could keep your bed warm, otherwise, I’m useless” as well.
Vera: I struggled to find a book fitting this song, so in the end I decided to focus only on two lines of it and basically ignore the rest. 😅 That’s how my choice fell on Crier’s War, a YA fantasy with an enemies to lovers romance. The lines quoted above remind me of the romance in the novel, in particular of one scene where the heroines (literally) sleep together.
Easier than Lying
“Well, if you’re a hater, then hate the creator
It’s in your image I’m made“
“I am whatever you make me
And you make me more and more a villain every day”
Sabrina: If you are familiar with the classic, Frankenstein, I hope you would see the connection between the book and the lyrics I’ve highlighted – and the lyrics Vera highlighted too! It’s all too easy for Frankenstein to turn his back on the creature he created, leading to some devastating results.
Vera: I was far from being fully satisfied with The Folk of Air series as it progressed, but nonetheless, I think it is a good pick for the vibe of the album, as well as for the lines quoted above. The following quote from the book in particular – “If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.” – reminded me of the above quoted part of the song.
“You got me feelin’ like I been too mean
And everything that I say, I believe
Tuck a knife with my heart up my sleeve”
“I just fuck things up if you noticed
Have you noticed? Tell me, have you noticed?“
Sabrina: I’ve definitely twisted the lyrics in my favour for this match! I’ve picked one of my much raved about favourites – the dark fantasy graphic novel series Monstress. I think the lyrics I’ve picked really suit the main character, Maika, as do “I am disruptive, I’ve been corrupted, And by now, I don’t need a fuckin’ introduction” because she has quite literally been corrupted and everyone in her world seems to know who she is!
Vera: For ‘Lilith’ I tried to think of a book with a main character that is afraid of not being perfect and of screwing things up. My choice fell on Eve from Act Your Age, Eve Brown, a young woman who’s tried multiple career paths… but none of them have worked out for her. At the beginning of the book, Eve is at a point in her life where she is uncertain if she could succeed in anything at all.
Girl is a Gun
“It’s a shot in the dark, I’m not a walk in the park
I come loaded with the safety switched off”
“This girl is a gun
Before you know it, it’s done“
Sabrina: Out of all the songs on the album, I definitely struggled finding a book for this one the most. As a result, this is now my least favourite song, lol. In the end, I’ve decided to go with Not Even Bones because it follows a really dangerous main character who is unpredictable and constantly grappling with her conscience – which I would relate to the lyrics I’ve highlighted and the song title!
Vera: For this song, I decided to follow Sabrina’s example and choose a dangerous main character, namely, Rhiannon from Sweetpea. Rhiannon is a serial killer who is incredibly volatile and unpredictable, which makes Sweetpea a really intriguing book.
You asked for this
“Go on and be a big girl
Or everybody’s gonna drown you out
Go on and be a big girl
You asked for this now“
“Go on and be a big girl
Or everybody’s gonna drown you out
Go on and be a big girl
You asked for this now“
Sabrina: I really relate this song and the highlighted lyrics to the main character in the gothic classic Rebecca, who ends up with much more on her plate than she bargained for when she decided to marry Maxim du Winter. One of her biggest struggles in the story is feeling overshadowed by his last wife, and I feel that can relate to the lyrics I chose.
Vera: I decided to select the same lyrics Sabrina did, as I think they are a good fit for one of the main characters from Ace of Spades. Chiamaka is smart and hard-working, but what a lot of people don’t know is how much effort she puts into trying to be perfect. During the course of the novel, Chiamaka and a fellow Black student are forced to work together when they are targeted by someone who is trying to reveal their secrets.
“Until it’s time to see the light
I’ll make my own with you each night“
“Really can’t remember where I left my spine
Carrying my body in a bag for dimes
Hidden in the pages of the New York Times at home“
Sabrina: I picked The Wicker King for this song, because it follows two boys in an intimate and codependent relationship, where one of them struggles with hallucinations of a different world and the other doesn’t know how to properly help him – so he plays along with the delusions and may even believe in them himself. There are parts in the book that the lyrics “really can’t remember where I left my spine,” and “somewhere we can sleep, I’ll see you in your dreams,” remind me of, plus there is a bit of fire/burning imagery in the book which I relate to the highlighted lyrics.
Vera: I don’t really want to get into the whys because I would certainly spoil multiple things if I did, but for multiple reasons, ‘Darling’ made me think of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Just think of the fact that she had one true love, one true friend, and also of how much she loved her daughter.
“The parts of myself that I’ve hated
And I can’t tell which ones are mine
And which I created”
“But I won’t die for love
But ever since I met you
You could have my heart
And I would break it for you“
Sabrina: This is another song I struggled with, but I’ve finally settled on A Curse So Dark And Lonely – it’s a great Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I think the above lyrics fit well with the “beast” character. I also think the bridge of the song matches well with the book because of course no one wants Harper to leave because they’re “runnin’ out of time” to break the curse.
Vera: I know, I know – I push Six of Crows into a lot of posts and everyone knows this book, but listen, Kaz and Inej were the first couple I thought of when I properly read the lyrics, so I’ll have to stick to this pick.
“She was sweet like honey
But all I can taste is the blood in my mouth
And the bitterness in goodbyе“
“She told me “Open your mouth”
She said “I’ve got a surprise”
And so I opened it wide
And then she crawled inside“
Sabrina: There are several generations of women in sapphic relationships in Plain Bad Heroines, and not all those relationships end well and some do end in blood. Also, yellow jackets are a prominent symbol in the book, and I know they don’t make honey but they sure do sting (“she stings like she means it, she’s mean and she’s mine” is part of the chorus!), as do some of the characters.
Vera: I feel like Sabrina has already chosen the perfect novel for this song, so it was a struggle to find something even half as fitting. In the end, I decided to go with Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, a horror novella that is about a toxic online relationship between two women. It’s incredibly dark and disturbing, so look into it before you read it.
“This is the voice in your head that says, “You do not want this”
This is the ache that says, “You do not want him””
“Sabotage the things you love the most
Camouflage, so you can feed the lie that you’re composed“
Sabrina: If you read the reviews for this horror novel, you will find that most people agree that it’s best going into it not knowing much. In line with that thinking, I will simply share with you this snippet from the synopsis that will hopefully explain my thinking behind choosing this book for this song: “Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.” And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.“
Vera: For ‘Whispers’ I wanted to select a book where the character or characters are afraid to trust others and end up sabotaging their relationship because of this fear. In Teach Me, both main characters have scars from their past relationships, which makes it difficult for them to start a relationship, no matter how much they like each other from the get go.
i am not a woman, i’m a god
“Every day, I got a smile where my frown goes
A couple bodies in the garden where the grass grows
I take ’em with me to the grave in a suitcase
Maybe I could be a different human in a new place”
“I am not a martyr, I’m a problem
I am not a legend, I’m a fraud“
Sabrina: It’s been a really long time since I’ve read Dangerous Boys, so unfortunately I can’t tell you if what I’m about to say is a spoiler but: I remember the main character being so sick of her small town and believing that she was meant for much greater things in greater places – and over the course of the book, she gets tired of pretending to be content. Of course she is also caught up in a fire where one boy dies and it’s clear that she is hiding something about that night. I think that all matches up with the lyrics I’ve featured.
Vera: This song was really hard to crack and in the end, I’m only focusing on the lines quoted above, because my recommendation doesn’t work for the whole song. Those two lines, though, are a really good fit for The Girls I’ve Been, in which our heroine, the daughter of a con-artist, is forced to resort to her old tricks when she is taken captive with her best friend and girlfriend during a bank robbery.
“He’s layin’ in the water, begging God to let him drown
So I showed him all my teeth and then I laughed out loud“
“From a tender age I was cursed with rage
Came swinging like a fist inside a batting cage“
Sabrina: One of my favourite parts of The Girl From the Well was reading from the perspective of a ghost. Her main activity in death is going after murderers – particularly those who kill children. And because she was drowned in a well, there is quite a bit of water involved in this. I think the lyrics I’ve highlighted in particular are reminiscent of the ghost’s mindset.
Vera: For this song, I selected In the Garden of Spite, as it’s a novel about a female serial killer who has a lot of rage in her, to say the least. I like the lines I quoted above the most, but the following line – “And I’ll lure you like a landslide” – is what reminds me of Belle the most, as she becomes a black widow killer later in life, luring man to her farm.
“I’ll never know
If there’s danger in confession
Or it’s memory that presses
Like a blade against my throat”
“But what’s worse?
Tellin’ you my feelings
Or to die without revealing
That you crawled inside my head
And set a fire there instead?“
Sabrina: Fingersmith is a really great historical mystery! It’s told from a couple of perspectives, and you can see the uncertainty each of those two characters have when it comes to their relationship with each other. They never really know how the other feels about them until the very end – and I definitely relate that situation to the above lyrics. These lyrics in particular could also relate to a few other situations in the book.
Vera: I think this is my clumsiest pick, but in my defense, this was a difficult one! The reason why I chose Written in the Stars is that Darcy, one of the main characters, is afraid of getting into a serious relationship after having been burnt by a previous girlfriend. Throughout the novel, she wonders what’s worse – risk getting hurt in a new relationship, or staying safe by letting go of the woman she loves.
Have you listened to If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power? What do you think of the album? Have any of the songs reminded you of any books in particular? Do share. Have you read any of our picks?