Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

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.

I received this book for free from edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

90’s + boy/girl bands + the good ol’ days = sign me up!

I was first introduced to Katie Cotugno with her debut novel How to Love back in 2013. I really enjoyed it and looked forward to reading more by her! Sadly, this is the first book of hers I’ve picked up since then (shame on me I know).

When I first read the synopsis I was seriously intrigued. Being born in the late 80’s, I basically grew up in the 90’s. I was definitely part of the boy band generation and the playing outside and not having cell phones and all that stuff. That’s my childhood. It was a different kind of life than it is now. It was nice being able to go back to that frame of mind.

When this novel first started, it was easy to get into. I could tell that Olivia and Dana were besties. They just clicked. They were different enough to be their own person, but are still attached at the hip like most high school besties (or at least like me and my bestie from high school). They do come from different worlds though – Olivia is well off and Dana has an alcoholic mother – but it still works. Olivia decides to answer a newspaper ad to audition for a new girl group being put together by the guy responsible for all the major boy bands out of Orlando. She convinces Dana to tag along and that’s when things really get going.

I liked Dana. She really was just there to be a good friend for Olivia. She’s pretty sure she’s going to be stuck in their town and has accepted that as her fate. When Guy (the guy behind the boy bands – yes, Guy really is his name) asks her to audition randomly and gets chosen, she starts to realize she could have a different future – a better future. Through everything she honestly tries to be a good friend for Olivia. Even when she steps out from Olivia’s shadow, there’s still that caring factor she doesn’t give up on.

I wasn’t really a fan of Olivia’s though. One of the major things that are referenced with her storyline is that she may have an eating disorder. I could see how that type of personality would deal with something like that, but it wasn’t really developed. It felt very unnecessary to the story. It was alluded to, but not addressed or resolved. I wish she would have noticed how much Dana cared for her and everything Dana did for her – instead of just dropping her the first chance she got. Same goes with the other two girls – they didn’t really add anything to the story.

Of course amidst the self-discovery, there’s romance. Enter Alex. I’m still not sure about him. There wasn’t a whole of dimension to him, but he was still a good guy. He helped Dana find her true path and seemed to really care for her. I just wish we knew more about him. From what I remember he has brothers and… that’s about it. I also couldn’t even tell you the names of the other guys in his boy band – Hurricane Street (I think?).

The ending was probably by far the most shocking. It was not the typical happy ever after, but there was still hope. Dana figured out what she wanted to do and went after it. She found what made her happy and mended fences (when really – she didn’t need to).

Overall, it had all the pieces for an amazing contemporary (at least for me). It just didn’t quite come together the way I had hoped. There were so many lackluster moments and only one character that I really liked. I will definitely read more by Katie Cotugno, but this wasn’t a favorite of mine.

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