Friday, June 26, 2015

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights (Daylight Falls #2)
by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Genre: GLBT, Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary


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.

Shel: I'm sure you've seen it--those reviews that say "this would be the perfect beach read"? Guess what? I tested the theory with Under the Lights and it IS a fantastic beach read. I'm not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that I started it on the beach and the next thing I knew I was a third of the way through the book and I had no idea what the hell was going on on the beach around me; I was completely absorbed in the stories of Josh and Vanessa. Court: It also qualifies as a great comfort read, where you're just lazing around the house...and need something that will really just hit you in the sweet spot. This is that book. 

Shel: Under the Lights may appear to be this fun, light read and I absolutely concur with that but if that's all you 'get' when you read this, then you're missing out on some fantastic conversations and moments about what it might feel like when you don't fit in all the boxes that everyone else wants to put you in. Things like when Van talks about how some only think she's on a her show because she can "fill some sort of racial quota" or when she's starting to explore her sexuality and she feels like she can't talk to anyone about it because they identify her as straight. Or, when Josh realizes that he's been lost for a while and how unhappy he is...these are just some of the moments that are woven into this seemingly fluffy novel about young stars in Hollywood and it's these type of moments that elevate it. Not to ramble about this, but sometimes I think we expect salient points about things like diversity or how we think of women in our world to be in literary fiction and I think having it woven so naturally in a lighter read makes this important. Why? Because when we can read a novel no matter if it's high art or low comedy (and everything in between) and it seamlessly includes characters who are not white, heterosexual, WASPS it is so much more reflective of the world that we live in and it shows us how normal diversity is in the real world and should be in our literature.  Court: But it was unassuming at the same time...because these kids are just trying to make it in the world, and be their own person and they are going through the same things all of the rest of us are even as they're trying to be starlets in the public eye. I think their diverseness is even stronger for us today because the stars are the people who have a voice to make these issues known...and can be people kids look up to without being perfect. So, for me the setting was perfect. Then...we see the normal side of things...where Josh and Van are just trying to find ways to be accepted by their own friends, and not used. There is so much to love about these characters, and while I was thrown for a bit by the converging story lines...I enjoyed Josh by the end just as much as I was hoping that Vanessa would get her happy ending.

Shel: ..stepping off my soapbox now...

Shel: While Under the Lights definitely gives us those serious, introspective moments, it also gives us many light-hearted diversions--mainly in the form of the back and forth between Van and Josh--or infuriating ones (JOSH can be a real prick sometimes--BUT! I think he serves an important foil to Van and I actually liked him..sorry, not sorry?). And, I'll admit that early on in the novel I found myself asking why these two and their very different lives were sharing their stories in the same book; they honestly seemed to have such different end goals. But between their frienemy status and the epiphanies they both have by the end, I can see how and why Van and Josh sharing their narratives in this book works. Court: I am not sorry either in liking Josh. He's the antihero of this book, and had something to prove to us and to himself. And I enjoyed it. I jumped the gun on seeing your thoughts on this topic, but I think it'll be a big one for readers of this book. Josh and Vanessa both were powerful voices in this story. I honestly hope to see more of Josh in the future, but we will see! 

Shel: There are so many things I enjoyed about this novel: the exploration of long distance friendship (and what happens when you're the one left behind), the way women and men are treated and perceived in Hollywood (and to be frank, the world) based on who they date, the sweet and confusing feelings of falling for someone you didn't expect to fall for, and something I think was important throughout: the value of true friends and finding new ones in people you'd least expect to find friendship in. Court: ALL THE FEELS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH! READ IT AGAIN, THEN MOVE ON! 

Shel: One of the highest compliments I feel I can give is when I want to recommend a book to my students and BOTH books in this series will be ones I'll be proud to have on my bookshelf in my classroom as recommended reads. Court: And I hope that many of your students as they begin their life journeys have these series' in their arsenal because they're perfect! 

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I'm an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I blog at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and the Barnes & Noble book blog. I also write contemporary YA (The Daylight Falls duology) and NA (The Radleigh University series). Rec-ing books is approximately my favorite thing in the universe, with macarons being a close second. Come say hi on Twitter, where I'm @MissDahlELama!

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