It is what I have always loved about music. Not the sounds or the crowds or the good times as much as the words – the emotions, the stories, the truth – that you can let flow right out of your mouth. Music can dig, you know? It can take a shovel to your chest and just start digging until you hit something.

This quote comes from Daisy in “The Numbers Tour,” Chapter 1, after she sings her own song for the first time on stage. Daisy articulates what she loves about music and why it’s so crucial for her to sing her own words on stage. Here, she illustrates how it’s only through music that she can express the deep, dark parts of herself that have been buried by pain. Music provides catharsis for others in the band, too, such as Karen, who feels seen not just as a woman but as a talented keyboardist when she’s onstage, and Billy, who expresses such truth in his songs that he sometimes has trouble facing it himself. Music in the novel serves as a sacred place where truth is told. In the same way that the novel itself shows the power of experiential truth, Daisy articulates here how much power there is in the language of music.

She had written something that felt like I could have written it, except I knew I couldn't have… Which is what we all want from art, isn’t it? When someone pins down something that feels like it lives inside us? Takes a piece of your heart out and shows it to you? It’s like they are introducing you to a part of yourself.

This quote comes from “Aurora,” Chapter 5, after Billy reads “This Could Get Ugly,” a song he resonates with. The song plays with the idea that something ugly could be beautiful, suggesting that there is a sense of relief or release in letting go of expectations and losing oneself in what is considered ugly. The song conveys a sense of giving in to temptation and of facing one’s demons head-on by doing what isn’t allowed or expected in order to feel free. Thus, the song encapsulates Billy’s core struggle throughout the novel as he is continually pulled between doing what he thinks is right and giving in to the temptations that feel right, from using drugs again to letting himself be with Daisy. Billy feels seen by Daisy in this song, as though she’s embracing the dark parts of him, too. In turn, this feeling of being seen makes it even more difficult for Billy to resist his pull toward Daisy.

It scared me that the only thing between this moment of calm and the biggest tragedy of my life was me choosing not to do it.

This quote is spoken by Billy in “Aurora,” Chapter 8, after he and Daisy nearly kiss. Billy is remembering a moment when he was a child, when Graham was sitting on the edge of the pool, and Billy thinks about pushing him in even though he can’t swim. Throughout the novel, Billy struggles with his personal agency, and he marvels at how easily he could choose to do something that would break his own heart. Billy sees his attraction to Daisy as a potential tragedy, squandering Camila’s faith in him and the love they have worked so hard on. Though he is strongly pulled toward Daisy and loves her in some moments even more than he does Camila, he remains faithful to Camila. Though the power of choice dogs Billy and he continually feels as though he may not be strong enough to resist temptation, he ultimately decides that each person’s life is evaluated based on their actions, not on what they want.