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Book Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

under the lightsPublisher’s description:

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls … opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—on everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved … and the person she never imagined she could.

 

Amanda’s thoughts:

This is the second book in the Daylight Falls series, but it can be read on its own (though I’d bet that doing so would inspire readers to go back and read the first book). Though it deals with some serious issues, this book was so much fun. And let’s talk about that cover! It’s so bright and eye-catching, right? We seem to have finally entered into a world where books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters actually have covers that indicate that (never mind how excited I am that we seem to finally be beyond the whole partial bodies/headless bodies phase). One of my biggest pet peeves is when something on the cover seems to not be representative of the book or when the people on the cover look nothing like how they are described in the book. Here both a major part of the story and the characters are captured well.

 

This is not just a story about Hollywood kids partying (though they do) and hooking up. The characters and situations have depth and deal with plenty of problems that we non-Hollywood folks can relate to—long-distance relationships, issues with parents, feeling uncertain about the future, and figuring out who you really are. Though a lot of times I wanted to kick Josh for being such so smarmy, it was so great to watch the slow transformation he undergoes, particularly in his friendship with Vanessa. He gains depth and becomes much more fully developed by the end of the story. There’s a lot more to him than just drinking and hooking up with any girl who’s willing.

 

While Josh certainly takes up much of the story, it’s Vanessa and Bri who are the real ones to watch here. I LOVED seeing their relationship develop. For Vanessa, who had never really considered liking girls before, falling for Bri was a total surprise. Everything about how she processed her feelings, how she shared her truth, and how she finally embraced her identity was fantastic. She’s conflicted and scared, but also knows that she has completely fallen for Bri. They form such a solid bond and are so open and supportive of each other. Watching them flirt and fall in love was so much FUN.

 

In August I will be sharing a crowdsourced post about great relationships and  sex/consent-positive scenes in LGBTQIA+ YA. Under the Lights got a LOT of love on Twitter for being a book featuring a great relationship between two girls as well as Adler writing some really fantastic and sexy making out/having sex scenes.

 

I’m hoping this fun and smart read will reach a wide audience, as it will appeal to all kinds of readers. While Adler certainly addresses some deep issues (race, sexuality, careers, and the pressures that come with all of those things), I finished the book and was mostly left feeling that it was just so much fun and so satisfying. Hoping to see more of Vanessa, Bri, Josh, and friends in the future.

 

Review copy courtesy of NetGalley

ISBN-13: 9781633920170

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Publication date: 06/30/2015

Series: Daylight Falls Series, #2