YA Friday: Beyoncé Albums as YA Books

Beyoncé's career has spanned over a decade. From her time in Destiny's Child to her movie ventures and even starting a line of athleisure clothing, Beyoncé can do it all. But there's no doubt where she shines best is in her music career. After all, she is the most nominated singer and female artist in Grammy history, with 79 nominations and 28 wins. With the recent release of her 8th studio album, let's explore her diverse musical eras and pair each one with young adult books that complement the themes and vibes of her music, providing a unique literary journey through her extraordinary career.

Dangerously in Love

Beyoncé's debut solo studio album, "Dangerously in Love," marked a significant moment in her career trajectory, released on June 23, 2003. Amidst Destiny's Child's hiatus during the recording sessions from March 2002 to March 2003, Beyoncé, as the album's executive producer, showcased her multifaceted talents by co-writing the majority of the songs and actively participating in production decisions. While the album's themes subtly hinted at her relationship with rapper Jay-Z, it was praised for its diverse musicality, blending R&B, soul, hip-hop, and Arabic influences. Beyoncé's artistry garnered critical acclaim, leading to numerous Grammy Awards, including Best Contemporary R&B Album. With hit singles like "Crazy in Love" and "Baby Boy," the album secured Beyoncé's position as a global music icon, amassing commercial success and critical acclaim alike.

Last Chance Dance, book cover

Last Chance Dance by Lakita Wilson

Leila is crushed when Dev, her boyfriend of four years, breaks up with her right before graduation. Just when she thinks she wasted her entire high school experience on a dead-end relationship, her best friend Bree reminds her that the Last Chance Dance is just around the corner.

A high school tradition, Last Chance Dance gives all the students one last opportunity to find love before they graduate. All Leila has to do is submit three unrequited crushes to the dance committee, and if any of her crushes list her too, they'll get matched. Presto: new relationship, just like that. To her utter amazement, Leila is matched with all three of her choices--and with someone she never, ever expected, Tre Hillman, her chemistry partner and low-key nemesis.

Though at times skeptical, Leila embarks on her Last Chance Dance mission--trying out her matches and going on dates. If Dev wasn't her true love--then maybe someone else is. She knows it's definitely not Tre, even though he seems more and more determined to convince her he's right for her.

But thoughts of Dev keep sneaking back into her mind, and as graduation and the dance approaches, Leila must figure out what--and who--she really wants. It's her last chance, right?



Beyoncé's second studio album, "B'Day," released on September 4, 2006, showcased her artistic evolution and versatility. Originally slated for 2004, the album's production was postponed due to Beyoncé's commitments to Destiny's Child and her starring role in the film "Dreamgirls." During a brief hiatus after filming, Beyoncé swiftly crafted "B'Day" within two weeks, drawing inspiration from her cinematic experiences and infusing the album with a blend of 1970s–1980s funk, balladry, and urban contemporary elements. Embracing live instrumentation, she aimed to create an authentic sonic experience. "B'Day" received critical acclaim for its sonic richness and Beyoncé's vocal prowess. Recognized with a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album, the album's success continued internationally, with singles like "Déjà Vu" and "Irreplaceable" dominating the charts. Beyoncé's commitment to her vision culminated in the B'Day Anthology Video Album, featuring 13 music videos, and a subsequent tour, The Beyoncé Experience, solidifying her status as a global superstar.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, book cover

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.


I Am... Sasha Fierce

Beyoncé's third studio album, "I Am... Sasha Fierce," released on November 12, 2008, showcased the artist's multifaceted identity through a double album format. Divided into "I Am..." and "Sasha Fierce," the album delved into Beyoncé's exploration of slow, midtempo pop, and R&B ballads on one disc and high-energy, electropop and Europop beats on the other, representing her onstage alter ego. Collaborating with writers and incorporating live orchestration, Beyoncé drew inspiration from personal experiences and musical icons like Etta James and her husband, Jay-Z, to craft compelling lyrics and melodies. Its singles, including "If I Were a Boy" and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," achieved global success, including numerous Grammy nominations and six wins. Beyoncé's commitment to her artistic vision was further exemplified through extensive promotional efforts, including award show appearances and the globally acclaimed I Am... Tour (2009–10), continuing her status as a cultural icon and musical powerhouse.

The Black Flamingo, book cover

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.

As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.

Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.



Beyoncé's fourth studio album, "4," released on June 24, 2011, marked a significant departure from her previous work, driven by a desire to reconnect with traditional rhythm and blues. Through collaboration, Beyoncé crafted a mellower, more introspective sound, drawing influences from funk, hip-hop, and soul. Departing from her earlier pop-centric approach, Beyoncé embraced a more intimate and personal tone, exploring themes of monogamy, female empowerment, and self-reflection. Its seven singles, including "Run the World (Girls)" and "Love On Top," showcased Beyoncé's versatility and earned critical acclaim, cementing Beyoncé's reputation as a dynamic and influential artist in the music industry.

Love Radio, book cover

Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle

Prince Jones is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. After all, at seventeen, he has his own segment on Detroit’s popular hip-hop show, Love Radio, where he dishes out advice to the brokenhearted.

Prince has always dreamed of becoming a DJ and falling in love. But being the main caretaker for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his little brother means his dreams will stay just that and the only romances in his life are the ones he hears about from his listeners. Until he meets Dani Ford.

Dani isn’t checking for anybody. She’s focused on her plan: ace senior year, score a scholarship, and move to New York City to become a famous author. But her college essay keeps tripping her up and acknowledging what’s blocking her means dealing with what happened at that party a few months ago. And that’s one thing Dani can’t do.

When the romantic DJ meets the ambitious writer, sparks fly. Prince is smitten, but Dani’s not looking to get derailed. She gives Prince just three dates to convince her that he’s worth falling for. Three dates for the love expert to take his own advice, and just maybe change two lives forever.



Beyoncé's eponymous fifth studio album, released on December 13, 2013, revolutionized the music industry with its groundbreaking approach. Conceptualized as a visual album, each song was accompanied by a non-linear short film, amplifying the album's narrative and musical concepts. Driven by Beyoncé's quest for complete artistic autonomy, the album delved into dark, personal subject matter, exploring feminist themes of sex, monogamy, beauty standards, and relationship dynamics. Recorded initially in New York City, Beyoncé's creative process evolved during extensive touring, culminating in collaborations with producers and songwriters like Boots, resulting in a sonically experimental fusion of contemporary R&B, electronic, and soul music.

The album's unexpected digital release on the iTunes Store, without prior announcement or promotion, sent shockwaves through the industry, propelling it to debut at number one on the US Billboard 200. Beyoncé shattered records, becoming the fastest-selling album in iTunes history up to that point. Its innovative release strategy, alongside its critical acclaim for production quality, vocal performance, and exploration of sexuality, earned Beyoncé widespread praise. Notably, the album's impact extended beyond its music, influencing the rise of the visual album format and literally changing the music industry's global music release days from Tuesday to Friday. Recognized as one of the greatest albums of all time by Rolling Stone, Beyoncé's self-titled album solidified her status as a visionary artist and cultural icon.

The Gilded Ones, book cover

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself.



Beyoncé's sixth studio album, "Lemonade," released on April 23, 2016, captivated audiences with its innovative blend of music and visual storytelling. Accompanied by a 65-minute film of the same title, "Lemonade" is a concept album that chronicles Beyoncé's emotional journey following her husband's infidelity, set within a broader context of generational and racial themes. This R&B and art pop masterpiece transcends genres, incorporating elements of reggae, blues, rock, hip hop, soul, funk, Americana, country, gospel, electronic, and trap. Featuring guest appearances from James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd, and Jack White, the album weaves a rich tapestry of sound, punctuated by samples and interpolations of hip-hop and rock classics.

"Lemonade" received universal acclaim and was hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time by critics and publications alike. It garnered nine Grammy Award nominations at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Supported by singles like "Formation," "Sorry," "Hold Up," "Freedom," and "All Night," "Lemonade" propelled Beyoncé to new heights of artistic and commercial success. The album's impact extended beyond its music, with Beyoncé embarking on The Formation World Tour. "Lemonade" stands as a testament to Beyoncé's artistry, pushing boundaries and redefining the possibilities of music and visual storytelling.

How It Went Down, book cover

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq's friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.



Beyoncé's seventh studio album, "Renaissance," released on July 29, 2022, marked a triumphant return for the iconic artist. Serving as the first installment of her trilogy project, Beyoncé crafted the album amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to uplift listeners with joy and escapism. Collaborating with a diverse array of producers and songwriters, "Renaissance" is a celebration of post-1970s Black dance music styles such as disco and house.

The album seamlessly blends these influences, paying homage to the Black and Black queer pioneers of these genres while exploring themes of escapism, hedonism, self-assurance, and self-expression. Critically acclaimed for its eclectic yet cohesive sound, joyous mood, and Beyoncé's stellar vocal performance, "Renaissance" quickly became the standout album of 2022.  At the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, "Renaissance" earned nine nominations, including Album of the Year, and secured four wins, including Best Dance/Electronic Album, solidifying Beyoncé's status as the most awarded artist in Grammy Awards history.

In support of the album, Beyoncé embarked on the Renaissance World Tour and released an accompanying documentary concert film, further cementing "Renaissance" as a monumental achievement in her illustrious career. With its infectious energy and profound impact, "Renaissance" stands as a testament to Beyoncé's enduring influence and artistry.

Cool. Awkward. Black., book cover

Cool. Awkward. Black. edited by Karen Strong

A girl who believes in UFOs; a boy who might have finally found his Prince Charming; a hopeful performer who dreams of being cast in her school's production of The Sound of Music; a misunderstood magician of sorts with a power she doesn't quite understand.

These plotlines and many more compose the eclectic stories found within the pages of this dynamic, exciting, and expansive collection featuring exclusively Black characters. From contemporary to historical, fantasy to sci-fi, magical to realistic, and with contributions from a powerhouse list of self-proclaimed geeks and bestselling, award-winning authors, this life-affirming anthology celebrates and redefines the many facets of Blackness and geekiness--both in the real world and those imagined.

Featuring contributions from Amerie, Kalynn Bayron, Terry J. Benton-Walker, Roseanne A. Brown, Elise Bryant, Tracy Deonn, Desiree S. Evans, Isaac Fitzsimons, Lamar Giles, Jordan Ifueko, Leah Johnson, Amanda Joy, Kwame Mbalia, Tochi Onyebuchi, Shari B. Pennant, K. Arsenault Rivera, Julian Winters, and Ibi Zoboi.


Cowboy Carter

Beyoncé's eighth studio album, "Cowboy Carter," released on March 29, 2024, emerged as a bold exploration of Americana and country music, reimagined through the lens of Black pioneers and cultural contributions. As the second installment of her trilogy project following "Renaissance" (2022), Beyoncé conceived "Cowboy Carter" as a transformative journey spotlighting the overlooked influence of Black musicians on American musical and cultural history.

While primarily labeled as a country album, Beyoncé described it as a quintessential "Beyoncé album," blending a rich tapestry of musical genres, including R&B, pop, hip hop, trap, psychedelic funk, blues, soul, rock, rock 'n' roll, opera, Irish jig, and folk music. The album is conceptually presented as a radio broadcast by the fictitious "KNTRY Radio Texas," with country legends Dolly Parton, Linda Martell, and Willie Nelson serving as disc jockeys.

Driven by acoustic instrumentation, "Cowboy Carter" paints a vivid sonic landscape, pushing the boundaries of genre while honoring its roots. Lead singles "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages" garnered widespread acclaim, with the former making history as the first country song by a Black woman to top both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs charts.

Critically acclaimed for its genre experimentation, expansive scope, and eclectic references, "Cowboy Carter" ignited crucial conversations about the place of Black musicians within country music. The album's impact extended beyond music, sparking renewed interest in Black country artists, country radio, and Western wear and culture. With its ambitious vision and profound cultural resonance, "Cowboy Carter" demonstrates how Beyoncé's status as a trailblazer in music and cultural innovation exists beyond genre.

Hot Boy Summer, book cover

Hot Boy Summer by Joe Jiménez

Mac has never really felt like he belonged. Definitely not at home—his dad’s politics and toxic masculinity make a real connection impossible. He thought he fit in on the baseball team, but that’s only because he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Finding his first gay friend, Cammy, was momentous; finally, he could be his authentic self around someone else. But as it turned out, not really. Cammy could be cruel, and his “advice” often came off way harsh.

And then, Mac meets Flor, who shows him that you can be both fierce and kind, and Mikey, who is superhot and might maybe think the same about him. Over the course of one hot, life-changing summer, Mac will stand face-to-face with desire, betrayal, and letting go of shame, which will lead to some huge discoveries about the realness of truly belonging.