Halsey’s Badlands + the Best of YA Characters

Lately, I can’t stop listening to Halsey’s debut album, Badlands. It’s become my music obsession…in fact, I’ve probably annoyed my friends and followers with the amount of times I’ve talked about it, or reblogged lyric edits on Tumblr. Her lyrics are haunting, beautiful, and they tell poignant stories. They dredge up emotions I had forgotten I could feel. What else has poignant, beautiful words? Books, of course! Right around the same time Badlands was released, I was embarking on my YA Fantasy journey, starting with Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. As I was reading, Badlands softly played in the background, and I couldn’t help but notice that Halsey’s Castle was very reminiscent of the main character in Red Queen, Mare Barrow. I was struck with an idea. Often, authors create book playlists- playlists they listened to while writing. Art inspires art, and the emotions in music can help feed into the emotions needed to create deep, complex characters. So I decided to do a book playlist of sorts–I went through and listened to all the songs on Badlands, and whenever a lyric, or whole song, reminded me of a character (or an OTP), I wrote it down. Here’s the final result. Note, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t read the books, this is your warning. Simply read the title line (Track + book character) and then GO READ THE BOOK. I’ve linked the Goodreads page for the book(s) in each heading. In fact, most of the connections between and song and book won’t make sense if you haven’t read the book, so I would honestly only suggest reading this post if you’ve read: Red Queen (Aveyard), The Dark Elements Trilogy (Armentrout), A Court of Thorns and Roses (Maas), the Starcrossed series (Rayven), Where the Road Takes Me (McLean), The Infernal Devices series (Clare), Ugly Love (Hoover), and the Mara Dyer series (Hodkins).

Track #1: Castle + Mare Barrow

I just happened to be reading Red Queen when I was listening to Castle, and Mare Barrow, the main character, seemed to jump out of the pages and into the song. I could vividly picture her in a music video for this song. Seriously, someone make a YouTube video using Mare Barrow and Castle. DO. IT.

“Sick of all these people talking, sick of all this noise
Tired of all these cameras flashing, sick of being poised.”

Mare is being used as a pawn by the Silvers. She’s paraded around the court as a sign of cooperation among Silvers and Reds. The Silvers whisper about the strange Red girl in the hall, and she has to endure their constant stares.

“I’m headed straight for the castle
They wanna make me their queen
And there’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean
I’m headed straight for the castle
They’ve got the kingdom locked up
And there’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying I should probably keep my pretty mouth shut.”

This is the part of the song that really screamed Mare at me. Once her powers are discovered, she aligns herself with the rebels against the tyranny of Silver rule. Sitting on the throne is her biggest obstacle though: the Silver king, who wants nothing more than the lowly red to “keep her pretty mouth shut” about Red power and rebellion.

Track 2: Hold Me Down + Layla; Feyre & Rhysand

This one was a but tricky, but I eventually came up with both a female protagonist and pairing for the song, and once I did, I realized they both were kind of perfect for the song.

“My demons are begging me to open up my mouth
I need them mechanically make the words come out
They fight me, vigorous and angry, watch them pounce
Ignite me, licking up the flames they bring about.                                

Selfish, taking what I want and call it mine
I’m helpless, clinging to a little bit of spine
They rush me, telling me I’m running out of time
They shush me, walking me across a fragile line.”

In actuality, Layla of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Dark Elements Trilogy actually is a half-demon. The catch is, she’s a half-demon living among Wardens, the very ones who hunt demons. She’s constantly fighting against her urges to, well, suck souls, as demons do. She’s also constantly racing the clock, waiting for the time the demon inside her takes over, and her closest friends are forced to end her life. While the whole song may not apply to her, these lyrics perfectly fit her character.

“I sold my soul to a three-piece
And he told me I was holy
He’s got me down on both knees
But it’s the devil that’s tryna
Hold me down, hold me down
Sneaking out the back door,
Make no sound
Knock me out, knock me out
Saying that I want more, this is what I live for.”

In A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, it is clear Feyre belongs with Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court. However, Feyre eventually finds herself in a deadly situation, and the one to come to her aid is Rhysand, the dark, twisted High Lord of the Night Court. She essentially sells a part of her soul to him, and what follows is a bit confusing for readers. It’s clear that she’s drawn to him, but she loves Tamlin. What we’re then left with is a dark, forbidden romance that Feyre doesn’t fully want to be a part of, but can’t seem to leave.

Track #3: New Americana + Ashton Henley 

“Young James Dean, some say he looks just like his father,
But he could never love somebody’s daughter.
Football team loved more than just the game
So he vowed to be his husband at the altar.”

This is one of my favorite Halsey songs, but I was stumped when it came to finding a parallel book for it. However, this one section screamed “Ashton Henley” at me. He’s the love interest in K. A. Tucker’s One Tiny Lie. He’s the image of his father, and has the brooding demeanor of the beloved James Dean. He may not be on the football team, but he’s captain of the men’s rowing team (at Princeton…so that’s basically the equivalent to football). He’s being  forced into marrying a girl he doesn’t love, and as a result as become hardened to love. When he does meet Livie, he refuses to fall for her, and constantly tells her he could never love her in the way that she needs.

Track #4: Drive + Rachel & Isaiah

“My hands wrapped around the stick shift
Swerving on the 405, I can never keep my eyes
Off this
My neck, the feeling of your soft lips
Illuminated in the light, bouncing off the exit signs
I missed
All we do is drive
All we do is think about the feelings that we hide
All we do is sit in silence waiting for a sign
Sick and full of pride
All we do is drive.”

Crash Into You by Katy McGarry is a book I read a while ago, but I remember the plotline enough to know this song is perfect for Rachel and Isaiah. They’re drawn together by their love for speed racing, and their passion for driving is a key element of their relationship throughout the book. This song definitely could be played during multiple scenes throughout the book.

Track #5: Hurricane + Cassie Taylor

The Starcrossed series is my favorite New Adult series ever. It only has two books, but the emotions packed into those two books, along with the complexity of each character is incredible. What’s even more interesting is that the characters do a complete 180 from the first book to the second book. So while Hurricane would apply to Cassie in Broken Juliet (book 2), it never would in Bad Romeo (book 1).

“I’m a wanderess
I’m a one night stand
Don’t belong to no city
Don’t belong to no man
I’m the violence in the pouring rain.”

While pretty much the whole song applies to Cassie, for the sake of length I’m just going to paste the chorus here. After the events of Bad Romeo, Cassie is left battered and bruised (not literally, Holt isn’t abusive). She’s steeled her heart against love an emotion. Just like I had trouble writing a review for the book, I’m having trouble explaining how well Cassie relates to this song; her character is so complex and layered that I couldn’t ever hope to be able to summarize her. Leisa Rayven is simply an amazing author.

Track #6: Roman Holiday + Blake & Chloe 

“Didn’t know where we were running to
But don’t look back
We’ll be looking for sunlight
Or the headlights
Till our wide eyes burn blind
We’ll be lacing the same shoes
That we’ve worn through
To the bottom of the line
And we know that we’re headstrong
And our heart’s gone
And the timing’s never right
But for now let’s get away
On a Roman holiday.”

The title of Jay Mclean’s Where the Road Takes Me kind of speaks for itself. Blake, star of the high school basketball team and prospective player for Duke University, meets Chloe, a broken girl who seems to be running from everything and everyone. She’s full of life and vibrance, but she’s hiding a secret. When she reveals to Blake that she never plans on going to college because she has the same deadly cancer her mother and aunt died from, they embark on a road trip. They’re running from the bad, with no particular destination. This book is easily one of my top 5 favorite New Adult books, and I highly recommend it.

Track #7: Ghost + Miles & Tate

Colleen Hoover. Ugly Love. If you haven’t read it, get your ass over to a bookstore now. Okay, now that I’ve put that PSA out there, I shall continue.

 “I like the sad eyes, bad guys
Mouth full of white lies
Kiss me in the corridor,
But quick to tell me goodbye.
You say that you’re no good for me
Cause I’m always tugging at your sleeve
And I swear I hate you and you leave
But I like it anyway.”

This song literally couldn’t be more perfect for Miles and Tate. Miles is a broken man who has sworn never to love again, but something draws him to Tate. In turn, she knows he’s no good for her, but can’t stay away. Their relationship is a constant push-pull; they use each other, and then are quick to leave. Tate swears she hates Miles, and he is always leaving, but she can’t help but fall for him. If you read this book, you’ll understand why this song seems to be pretty much written for them.

Track #8: Colors + Ethan Holt

While Hurricane was Cassie’s song, Colors seems like it could have been written from Cassie’s perspective in Bad Romeo as she desperately tries to save and love a struggling Holt.

“You’re only happy when your sorry head is filled with dope
I hope you make it to the day you’re 28 years old.”

Holt is bad news, and Cassie knows it. There are many times where he’s so full of darkness and depression that we’re not sure he’s going to make it.

“You’re ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece
And now you’re tearing through the pages and the ink.”

Holt is torn and ripped, but he’s still a beautifully unique human, just as every broken person is. The cracks that make them imperfect are what make them beautiful. But all too often, those people find themselves tearing through the scraps in an attempt the make the masterpiece.

I could go on, since the whole song seems like a tribute to Holt, but for the sake of time, we’ll move on.

Track #11: Strange Love + Layla & Roth

“We wrote a story in the fog on the windows that night
But the ending is the same every damn time

They think I’m insane, they think my lover is strange

Everybody’s waiting up to hear if I dare speak your name
Put it deep beneath the track, like the hole you left in me
And everybody wants to know ’bout how it felt to hear you scream
They know you walk like you’re a God, they can’t believe I made you weak.”

Remember Layla the half-demon? Well she meets Roth, Crown Prince of Hell, and sparks fly. Their relationship is forbidden by her guardians, the Wardens, but at the same time they can’t seem to stop Roth and Layla’s relationship. is perfect for their relationship, because it shows the conflicting emotions Layla and Roth deal with. They’r drawn to each other, but Roth is always walking away, in order to save her. He knows he’s bad for her, and the Wardens are good, but they can’t deny the pull.

Remember Layla the half-demon? Well she meets Roth, Crown Prince of Hell, and sparks fly. Their relationship is forbidden by her guardians, the Wardens, but at the same time they can’t seem to stop Roth and Layla’s relationship. Strange Love is perfect for their relationship, because it shows the conflicting emotions Layla and Roth deal with. They’r drawn to each other, but Roth is always walking away, in order to save her. He knows he’s bad for her, and the Wardens are good, but they can’t deny the pull.

Track #12: Coming Down + Tessa & Will 

“Now we’re lost somewhere in outer space
In a hotel room where demons play
They run around beneath our feet
We roll around beneath these sheets.”

If you haven’t read the Infernal Devices series, I can’t even begin to hope to explain how perfectly this song relates to Will and Tessa. There’s too much plotline and backstory you would need to know to fully understand it. What I can tell you is that you need to read this series. Your life (and bookshelf) will be a better place if you do. And while there is a love triangle, it’s pretty obvious Tessa needs end up with Will…or maybe I just shipped them so much that I refused to acknowledge any kind of alternate ending. Let’s just say that was a painful series for me to read, but it was SO GOOD. For now, I’m just going to let the lyrics speak for themselves, and Tessa and Will. Actually, the whole song applies to them, and this post is already really long, so I’ll just post the chorus with a link to the lyrics.

Track #13: Haunting + Cal & Mare 

“I’m hoping you could save me now but you break and fold
You’ve got a fire inside but your heart’s so cold

‘Cause I’ve done some things that I can’t speak
And I’ve tried to wash you away but you just won’t leave.”

Mare Barrow from Red Queen had to manipulate a lot of people to try to save her people, including the boy she loved, Crown Prince Cal. At the end of the book, it’s clear she still cares for him, but she has broken him. He’s not sure if he can trust her anymore, no matter how much his heart wants her. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that relationship progresses. Haunting perfectly captures Mare’s yearning for Cal, despite the fact that she knows she’s irreparably damaged their relationship.

The Mara Dyer songs:

These next two tracks are perfect for Mara Dyer, the main character from Michelle Hodkin’s chilling, enrapturing series.

Track #14: Gasoline

“Are you deranged like me? Are you strange like me?
Lighting matches just to swallow up the flame like me?”

Mara is a girl who has voices in her head, hallucinations dancing before her eyes, and fear in her heart. She knows she’s strange and different- the psychiatrist and pills are proof of that. She also knows she’s crazy, but she doesn’t know why. 

Track #15: Control

“And I tried to hold these secrets inside me
My mind’s like a deadly disease

And all the kids cried out,
“Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
Goddamn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?”

While Control is clearly a song about someone with Bipolar disorder, something Mara doesn’t suffer from, it’s clear the song still relates to her. Not only are others scared of her, she’s scared of herself. She’s not in control of her mind. Her mind really is a deadly disease, poisoning her life.

Track #15: Young God + Tamlin & Feyre

“He says “Oh, baby girl, don’t get cut on my edges
I’m the king of everything and oh, my tongue is a weapon.”

Tamlin is High Fae, and Feyre (despite the name), is a lowly human. He possess power she could never imagine. But they’re drawn to each other, and can’t deny the attraction. Then, at the end of the book, in a desperate attempt to save Feyre’s life, she’s turned into High Fae as well, and all of a sudden they’re both young gods. You’d have to read the book to fully appreciate how this song relates, but I promise, it does.

**Note: I did not include Tracks 10 or 16***


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