Monday, June 3, 2019

REVIEW: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno


From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

I picked this book on a whim. It was available to read and I had liked Cotugo's How to Love, so I decided to go ahead and read this one. Unfortunately, this one wasn't for me.

Dana and Olivia have been best friends forever. When Olivia wants to go to Orlando to try out for a girl band, Dana tags along for support. But while waiting for Olivia's audition, Dana is called out to audition. She gives a BS performance--after all, Olivia is the performer, not Dana--but then Dana gets the call that she made the group. Olivia made it all well and while it sounds like it will all be fun and games, hanging out with her best friend, Olivia starts to distance herself from Dana. Dana cannot sing as well as the other girls and Olivia makes it known that Olivia should be the star and Dana is "stealing" from here. Also, Dana keeps bumping into Alex, one of the members of a boy band living in the same complex. The problem: Olivia has a crush on Alex. And, to make matters worse, it turns out there may only be room for one girl in the band.

This book is not bad, it's just not the type of book I would normally read. I didn't read the synopsis before picking this book up. If I did I might've decided to pass on it because it just says drama drama drama. I'm also not the biggest fan of books about becoming a celebrity. It could be interesting, but it usually goes in the drama direction. I like books featuring female friendships, but this book was mainly focused on a female friendship being torn about by drama. Drama just stresses me out and I definitely don't need any more stress.

This book takes place in the late '90s and that was one of the things that I thought was done well in this book. A lot of YA books I read that take place in recent decades go overboard on the pop culture references which ends up becoming less believable. Despite the music scene in this book, it wasn't overly peppered with pop culture references which made it easier to get into the setting. While the setting felt real, the plot itself was not very realistic and there wasn't really much to it. Its main plot is Dana, Olivia, and the other girls training for the pop star lifestyle. The scenes just went so quickly and there wasn't really much interest in their lifestyle because a lot of it was hardcore voice lessons, dancing, interviews, etc.

There was a lot of focus on Dana as she was trying to deal with this lifestyle and being called a "product". I do think there were interesting themes here that the book was trying to show. Dana always felt like Olivia was the one for the spotlight and that she would never escape her small town. When Dana had difficulty keeping up with the group, she was ostracized by the others (including Olivia), but Dana kept practicing on her own. I liked her perseverance. We're lead to believe that she has the talent and that she could do things if she sets her mind to it, but this fell flat at points. I want to believe this, but she literally got in for singing "Happy Birthday". She's told that they "saw something in her", but what did they see? Someone giving a BS performance? I honestly don't believe that someone would take in someone with absolutely no training and really did not give a crap because these folks care about money and they have to pay loads of money to train Dana without knowing it will pay off.

As for the romance, I had difficulty with the romance. Dana meets Alex by chance and then shortly after realizes that Alex is Olivia's crush. She keeps saying to herself that she has to stop talking to Alex because of Olvia, but she's not true to that. She even tells Alex that she can't be with him because a friend likes him. Alex thinks that is ridiculous and continues to pursue her after she says no. Yeah, I realize that Alex wants to choose who he likes and yeah, Dana does like Alex, but I did not like how he kept forcing a relationship after Dana kept telling him that she couldn't. It did not seem respectful to me. As I said, I don't like drama and the whole romance thing just seemed to add drama, some of which was entirely avoidable. I also just had difficulty understanding why Dana could not step back from Alex and I just really wanted her and Olivia to actually talk to each other about things!

Overall, this was a meh book for me. I actually think some of these ideas could have been interesting, but the plot just did not feel there at times and there was too much drama. The ending itself also was unsatisfactory and did not make sense [highlight to view spoiler]Dana is going to school at the end but throughout the whole book, she talks about how broke she is. It wasn't really explained how she was able to leave home and go to school. [end of spoiler]. I may read more from Katie Cotugno in the future but I may be pickier about which books I read by her.

I hereby give this book
2.5 Stars
Meaning: I almost liked it, but not quite

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