Rodrigo's favorite genres and singer-songwriters inspire the songs on the album. It is primarily a pop and alt-pop record that spans from energetic pop-punk songs to bedroom pop ballads. Its subject matter centers on adolescence failed romance and heartache. She said the album explores her perils and discoveries as a 17-year-old. Its title refers to the "sour" emotions young people experience but are often criticized for, such as anger, jealousy, and unhappiness.
Rodrigo has said about the album:
I truly feel like it’s the best that I can do right now. I wrote one song when I was sixteen, and one song when I was eighteen, but most of them I wrote when I was seventeen. It’s very much like a slice of my life in that moment.
Which makes it the perfect album to pair with some of our favorite young adult fiction titles. Be sure to check out the songs and books below and comment with your favorite!
The first track is Olivia Rodrigo’s punk-rock take on generational trauma. Rodrigo sings about the misleading promise of youth, including all the betrayals, disappointments, and challenges in our “golden years.” The title hook, “it’s brutal out here,” references both the crude music industry and the difficult world that is adolescence. Olivia is learning to navigate both.
Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall
Senior year of high school is full of changes.
For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.
For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to the leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.
When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini-documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?
On the aptly titled second track, Olivia Rodrigo reflects on what went wrong in a past relationship, the feeling of being betrayed, and still missing what she had. The piano-driven ballad went trending upon release, with many fans and the media speculating who the song was about and most of the suspects going to Joshua Bassett.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
3. drivers license
This song is the first single and third track on the album. It is a possible love ode about Rodrigo moving on from her previous relationship with Joshua Bassett, who is now supposedly dating Sabrina Carpenter, by doing the one last thing that she promised him—getting a driver’s license. The song showcases a brilliant balance of unfiltered outpouring and graceful specificity. Its accompanying music video spins a vivid portrait of Rodrigo as she drives aimlessly, longing for an ex-love.
The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody
After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?
Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.
He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.
And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.
4. 1 step forward, 3 steps back
The fourth track is about the ups and downs of life and the challenge of navigating relationships with an inconsistent partner, as every time Olivia takes a step forward towards meeting her true love, she immediately feels pushed back from her goals.
The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig by Don Zolidis
Janesville, Wisconsin (cold in the sense that there is no God)
The worst thing that's ever happened to Craig is also the best: Amy. Amy and Craig never should've gotten together. Craig is an awkward, Dungeons & Dragons-playing geek, and Amy is the beautiful, fiercely intelligent student-body president of their high school.
Yet somehow, they did. Until Amy dumped him. Then got back together with him. Then dumped him again. Then got back together with him again. Over and over and over.
Unfolding during their senior year, Amy and Craig's exhilarating, tumultuous relationship is a kaleidoscope of joy, pain, and laughter as an uncertain future-and adult responsibility-loom on the horizon.
Craig fights for his dream of escaping Janesville and finding his place at a quirky college, while Amy's quest to uncover her true self sometimes involves being Craig's girlfriend? And sometimes doesn't.
5. deja vu
This song is the fifth track and second single from the album. This song finds Olivia at a different stage than its predecessor, with her beginning to move on from heartbreak. Olivia questions both the authenticity of her ex’s new relationship, as well as their emotions for their new girl. She also portrays feelings of pity towards this new girl, who is not experiencing anything unique with her now-lover.
The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen Bischer
Home economics is supposed to be an easy A for Ellie Agresti, but, much like an imperfect souffle, her plans collapse epically when she's dumped by her boyfriend, Hunter. Now Ellie has to mend her broken heart while watching Hunter fawn all over his new girlfriend, Brynn, in class. To make matters worse, Ellie is partnered with four of the biggest misfit guys in school: Jeremy, the loudmouth with temper issues; Isaiah, the solemn, silent horse racing obsessive; Andrew, who can't take rejection; and Luke, the giant, tattooed stunt biker.
Over the course of a semester, Ellie works to overcome her feelings for Hunter, as well as deeper insecurities that have plagued her since middle school. As the weeks go by, she's surprised to find friendships in unexpected places... and sparks flying with the last guy she'd expect.
6. good 4 u
This song is the sixth track and is the third single from the album. The song’s hook is laced with sarcasm, as Olivia sharply addresses her former partner for quickly moving on from their relationship without much of an issue or any care towards her at all. Its angsty, pop-rock sound has drawn comparisons to 2000s acts like Paramore and Avril Lavigne.
Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi
Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero--with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she's positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren't loud, they certainly don't cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?
But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can't help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.
7. enough for you
The seventh track describes the extra effort she put in to try to be enough for her lover, comparing herself to her love’s exes, just for her lover to leave her for someone else. She’s left feeling heartbroken but knows that in the end, her lover will be the heartbroken one.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
The day they got together was the best one of Freddy's life, but nothing's made sense since. Laura Dean is popular, funny, and SO CUTE ... but she can be really thoughtless, even mean. Their on-again, off-again relationship has Freddy's head spinning — and Freddy's friends can't understand why she keeps going back.
When Freddy consults the services of a local mystic, the mysterious Seek-Her, she isn't thrilled with the advice she receives. But something's got to give: Freddy's heart is breaking in slow motion, and she may be about to lose her very best friend as well as her last shred of self-respect. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends and the insight of advice columnist Anna Vice, to help her through being a teenager in love.
In this song, Olivia wishes the best for an ex-lover and their new relationship but simultaneously hopes to remain a significant memory in their life. The whole album is full of songs allegedly directed at Bassett, revealing Rodrigo’s heartbreak in him leaving her. By the eighth track, Rodrigo starts to accept that even though she wants him back, it is doubtful it will happen. Rodrigo wants him to know that even though she is letting him go, she wants him to remember that she was the best he could ever get.
Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu
Stella lives with depression. Her junior year goals are pretty much limited to surviving her classes, staying out of her parents’ constant fights, and staving off unwanted feelings enough to hang out with her friends Lin and Katie.
Until Kevin. A quiet, wry senior who understands Stella and the lows she’s going through like no one else. With him, she feels less lonely, listened to—and hopeful for the first time since ever…
But to keep that feeling, Stella lets her grades go, and her friendships slide. And soon, she sees just how deep Kevin’s own scars go. Now little arguments are shattering. Major fights are catastrophic. And trying to hold it all together is exhausting Stella past the breaking point. With her life spinning out of control, she’s got to figure out what she truly needs, what’s worth saving—and what to let go.
9. jealousy, jealousy
The ninth track is about the unrealistic standards society has set for young people, most notably young women, particularly on social media. On the track, Olivia sings about the constant comparison and self-hatred that social media often leads to.
A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she's famous, privileged, has “the good hair”— and she’s an Eloko, a person who’s gifted with a song that woos anyone who hears it. Everyone loves her — well until she's cast as the awful person who exposed Tavia’s secret siren powers.
Now, she's being dragged by the media. No one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, nor her Eloko community. But Naema knows the truth and is determined to build herself back up — no matter what.
When a new, flourishing segment of Naema’s online supporters start targeting black girls, however, Naema must discover the true purpose of her magical voice.
10. favorite crime
In the tenth track, Olivia Rodrigo displays her lyricism by subverting the situation she’s in. As she implies that she is partly responsible for her heartbreak because she let herself be mistreated in the relationship, she starts the process of moving on.
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon, and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big-city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.
Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.
11. hope ur ok
In the final track, Olivia reminisces about old friends, presumably part of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite losing contact, she reminds them that nothing is as bad as it seems, wishes them well, and assures them how proud she is of what they’ve become.
We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding
At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but they’re no longer friends by graduation. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open.