YA Friday: Lover
I once believed love would be burning red, but it's golden like daylight
If you're anything like me then you've had Taylor Swift's seventh studio album Lover, on repeat since it dropped two weeks ago. Swift describes the album as a "love letter to love." It celebrates the ups and downs of love and incorporates brighter, more cheerful tones, departing from the dark sounds of its predecessor, Reputation. Please enjoy the list below where we have matched YA books that best capture the essence of each of the eighteen songs.
1. I Forgot That You Existed
Taylor’s previous album Reputation was released following a mire of controversies and feuds. Many of the songs reference these scandals and swear revenge. However in the opening song of this new album, Taylor takes an entirely different attitude and instead of focusing on all of that, she lets it all go, and as a reward, finds serenity.
Orphaned as a young child, 17-year-old Poe Blythe remembers only ever trusting one person: Call. Two years ago, they’d planned to escape their Outpost home by enlisting as machinists on a dredge, a large gold-mining ship. After Call is murdered by raiders, Poe, hoping to sidestep the admiral’s wrath and intent on revenge, creates a deadly armor that will slaughter anyone who attacks the remaining ship. When Poe is unexpectedly named the captain of the dredge on its final voyage, she is forced to lead a crew she neither knows nor trusts. With a traitor on board and the riverbanks teeming with enemy raiders, Poe battles to save her crew, her ship, and herself. The journey is full of unexpected revelations that force Poe to face the truth about the Outpost’s past, confront her enemies and personal demons, and learn to love and trust again.
2. Cruel Summer
Summer 2016 was a tumultuous time for Swift, primarily due to the revival of her long-standing feud with Kanye West, who has a September 2012 compilation album called Cruel Summer—Kanye released his February 2016 track, “Famous,” where he took credit for Swift’s fame, and Swift followed up by berating him at the 58th Grammy Awards celebration. Afterwards, Kanye claimed he played Swift the song before it released, and in July 2016, Kim Kardashian released a phone conversation via Snapchat between Ye and Swift that seemed to confirm. This conflict led to memes like the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty. Moreover, in one of the journals that come with the deluxe edition of Lover, Swift wrote, "This summer is the apocalypse." On top of this, Swift was pursuing a new relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, and she worried that her new image as a “snake” would drive him away.
The title track of the album is a romantic track dedicated to Swift’s partner of three years, Joe Alwyn. It takes a wedding-like perspective on their relationship and shares information about their romance.
The Greek goddess Aphrodite recounts two tales of tragic love during WWI to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: "Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another?" but her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music revealing that War is no match for the power of Love.
Taylor tackles the issue of gender inequality, especially when it comes to the workplace and careers. This song refers to having to put in an extra amount of work compared to a man in order to achieve her goals. The common argument regarding gender inequality, is that men have certain advantages over women due to existing laws, biases and societal norms. She states that being a woman is a core reason for people coming at her, meaning criticizing and insulting her. If she were a man, she says she’d be “the man,” and celebrated for her accomplishments and attitude.
Chelsea is a poet and Jasmine is a writer and actress. Fed up with their school's lack of acknowledgement of women's rights, they decide to take a stand with their blog, "Write Like A Girl." It catches the attention of many of their fellow classmates and other teens, but causes problems for them with faculty. Will they be able to enlighten their school community or make things worse for themselves?
5. The Archer
This track is about Swift’s insecurities in a relationship. Cupid is often depicted as an archer, who shoots arrows at people to make them fall in love. There’s also a potential connection with the song’s title and Swift’s zodiac sign. Born on December 13, 1989, Swift is a Sagittarius; otherwise known as the archer sign. This song follows what Swift’s fans deem as the “Track #5 Theory,” which surmises that some of Swift’s most vulnerable, emotional tracks are the fifth track on their respective albums.
A rebellious 16-year-old is sent to an isolated island for her grace year, when she must release her seductive, poisonous magic into the wild before taking her proper place as a wife and child bearer.In gaslit Garner County, women and girls are said to harbor diabolical magic capable of manipulating men. Dreaming, among other things, is forbidden, and before girls embark on their grace year, they hope to receive a veil, which promises marriage. Otherwise, it's life in a labor house—or worse. Strong, outdoorsy, skeptical Tierney James doesn't want to be married, but a shocking twist leaves her with a veil—and a dangerous enemy in the vindictive Kiersten. Thirty-three girls with red ribbons symbolizing sin woven into their braids set out to survive the island, but it won't be easy. Poachers, who trade in the body parts of grace-year girls, surround the camp, and paranoia, superstition, and mistrust rule. Not everyone will make it home alive.
6. I Think He Knows
This uptempo love song is about the beginning of a potential relationship with Swift crushing on her potential boyfriend’s every move.
When Kate Bailey lets her best friend, Alana, talk her into joining their high school's podcast she did not expect to find herself as the host, or to enjoy answering calls and giving advice on the air, but she is actually pretty good at it--but when she gets an anonymous call from a boy (possibly Diego Martinez) about his secret feelings for a girl (probably Alana) she is faced with a problem, because she is developing feelings for Diego herself.
7. Miss America & The Heartbreak Prince
This is a layered song that can be interpreted as describing a high school romance or Swift’s reasons for becoming politically vocal. When she was younger, Swift was deemed “America’s sweetheart,” a picture of innocence for young children and teenagers to look up to. She didn’t directly speak up about politics until 2018.
Imagine if, after the Revolutionary War, George Washington became the king of America instead of its president. Fast forward to the present, when America's beloved Princess Beatrice will one day be the country's first queen. It is no longer only a man's role, since Beatrice's grandfather abolished the law so that the first-born could take the throne. But this princess's life isn't all glamour and no drama. Having fallen for a commoner, she must learn to sacrifice for her country, even her true love. Her sister, Princess Samantha, must learn to live in Beatrice's shadow, though she has big problem coming in second in any situation. Her brother, Prince Jefferson, struggles to determine which girl truly loves him and not his title.
8. Paper Rings
The song is likely about her current boyfriend of three years, Joe Alwyn. Swift reveals her commitment to her lover, recounting the story of their love and declaring that she is so willing to stay with him forever, she would forgo any formalities and marry him with homemade paper rings.
Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Eleanor -- Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough -- Eleanor. Park -- He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises -- Park. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds -- smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
9. Cornelia Street
This song focuses on the central role the Manhattan street played in Taylor’s memories of an early relationship. Swift has said of the song, "It’s about the things that took place, the memories that were made on that street. I rented an apartment there, and just wanted to write a song about all the nostalgia of, you know, sometimes in our lives we assign, you know, we kind of bond our memories to those places where those memories happened, it’s just something we do if we romanticize life, which I tend to do. And so, I wrote this song about going back over the memories of things that happened in this particular place, and it ended up being one of my favorite songs. I wrote this one alone."
Broadway-obsessed Southerner Arthur (in the city for a summer internship) wants his magical New York moment. So he follows a cute boy into a post office in the hopes of making it happen. But fate—in the form of a flash mob proposal—separates them before Arthur gets the chance to learn Ben's name. Each boy tries to find the other using small clues from their first meeting until, eventually, they're reconnected. When their first date—Arthur's first date ever, Ben's first since breaking up with his ex—doesn't quite go as planned, they have a do-over date. And another. And another. But, as Arthur's return to Georgia at summer's end draws closer, is their flash relationship fate?
10. Death by a Thousand Cuts
This song compares the possible break-up of a relationship to a slow, painful death. It was inspired by the Netflix film Someone Great, rather than an aspect of Swift’s personal relationship.
Fifteen-year-old Mia’s social-emotional plate is full. Her face is severely scarred from a car crash that killed her older sister, and her father, who has become withdrawn, is sending her to New York for the summer to stay with her estranged grandmother. On Mia’s first day working at an NYC diner, she is befriended by the owner’s granddaughter, Fig, a blue-haired girl her age who loves adventures. Fig’s friends welcome her, including the cute, artistic Cooper, whose past contains its own secret battles. Through interactions with her new friends and their street art events, Mia re-embraces photography and learns that she’s not the only one with both visible and deep, personal burdens. Gradually, she begins to recover memories about the crash, allowing healing to take place.
11. London Boy
This is most likely an ode to Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, who was born in North London, and still lives in North London’s Crouch End, although Taylor has dated several “London boys” in high-profile public relationships. This audio clip in the beginning is sampled from James Corden’s March 2017 interview with London-born actor Idris Elba on The Late Late Show in which Elba describes potential date ideas for a woman who won a date with him during a charity auction. The rest of the song describes how Taylor’s ‘London boy’ has introduced her to pleasures of the United Kingdom. She now loves high tea, a British tradition of drinking tea while sitting at a table full of plated items such as cold meats, vegetables, pickled fish, potatoes, salads, pies, tarts, bread and cakes. Her lover, also tells stories of his time at University. Alwyn attended and studied English literature and drama at Bristol University up until his graduation in 2012. He also showed her London’s West End, a famous tourist spot located in Central London. Shopping, culture, history, foods, and most importantly, theatre, is alive in this district.
After Gabi's relationship with her long-time boyfriend Max falls apart, she just needs to get away—and she finds the perfect escape in a summer internship for her favorite TV show in London. All the gorgeous actors in the cast will more than distract her from the Break-Up. Then she meets Spencer Black: student, show extra, expert flirt. Spending time with him is fun, intoxicating, and uncertain. Their relationship is heating up when he lands a featured role on the show. Will his newly found fame break them apart, or is Spencer the one?
12. Soon You'll Get Better
Swift dedicates this heartbreaking tune to her mother, Andrea, who was diagnosed with cancer in April 2015 then re-diagnosed in March 2019. In a piece for Elle Magazine, Taylor wrote: "My mom’s cancer has taught me that there are real problems and then there’s everything else. My mom’s cancer is a real problem. I used to be so anxious about daily ups and downs. I give all of my worry, stress, and prayers to real problems now."
Letting Go of Gravity, written by Meg Leder
Parker McCullough has just graduated as valedictorian, but the moment is bittersweet. Her twin brother, Charlie, is not sitting with their class, instead repeating his senior year thanks to his leukemia. Charlie isn't sure how to handle life after remission, and Parker isn't sure how to handle a future she doesn't want. Sure, she worked her butt off to get into Harvard and land that prestigious internship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital—but now the thought of becoming a doctor makes her feel sick. Fortunately, Ruby, a rising junior, becomes Parker's new friend, and she reconnects with childhood classmate Finn, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Talking to Finn makes her brave enough to do what she wants, leaving the internship and working at a pottery studio, where, like clay on a wheel, she finally starts to take shape.
13. False God
This song uses heavy religious imagery to compare Swift’s relationship to something all-powerful and greater than themselves. It contains a similar religious motif to Swift’s November 2017 track “Don’t Blame Me." Both songs intertwine spirituality and sexuality to emphasize a “sacred” feeling in a relationship, as well as illustrating how uplifting it can be for both parties. However, while Swift was fairly absent-minded on “Don’t Blame Me,” she’s now well aware that this isn’t a healthy way to view the romance.
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex. No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual, even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too. Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life-- and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try. So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa-- slightly older, far more experienced-- it seems her theory is prime for the testing. But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories, and the result may just be love.
14. You Need to Calm Down
This song finds Taylor Swift addressing various detractors who post hurtful comments online, following themes of self-love and being true to one’s identity. Swift continues to show her support for the LGBTQ+ community, following a June 2019 letter to Senator Lamar Alexander, as well as a petition she created to fight for legal equality among all people, regardless of sexuality or gender. It’s also significant to note that Swift released the song and music video featuring cameos from several LGBTQ+ celebrities in June, which is recognized as Pride Month.
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town. Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.
In this track, Taylor sings about self-sabotaging a relationship, overreacting about a misunderstanding. Taking blame for the fight, she asks for forgiveness from her partner in order to save the relationship.
High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.
The first single of this album, Swift said the following: "‘ME!’ is a song about embracing your individuality and really celebrating it, and owning it. I think that with a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads, and I want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves."
On the heels of her success in the Miss Clover City pageant, Millie Michalchuk is determined to pursue her dream of broadcast journalism and not let her weight define her life. Callie Reyes is the pretty and popular queen bee who is better at having useful frenemies than actual friends. When Callie's revenge prank spirals out of control, it destroys the image that she's cultivated for herself and leaves her working side by side with Millie. As the girls get to know each other beyond superficial impressions, their very different strengths push both girls toward what will make them truly happy.
17. It's Nice to Have a Friend
Infused with steel drums, the song is a dreamy ballad about two friends meeting in school who eventually end up getting married. It recalls a similar love story of children growing up together and falling in love from 2006’s “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My).”
Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life. Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend. After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?
In the final song on her album, Taylor Swift sings about struggling through previous relationships, beginning to doubt her ability to find true love, until she meets someone who brightens her life in a new way. She refers to being unlucky in love in the past, but when she meets her new partner, she only wants to focus on them and their happiness together.