Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Fireworks by Katie CotugnoFireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray
Published on 11 April 2017
Genres: 20th Century, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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RRP: $13.50
3 Stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of 99 Days and How to Love comes a stunning new contemporary novel—all about boy bands, girl bands, best friends, and first love—perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.
It was always meant to be Olivia. She’s the talented one, the one who’s been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, is the levelheaded one, always on the sidelines, cheering Olivia on.
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, Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

I enjoyed this book. I found its 90s setting charming – it was never very ‘in your face’ – and in fact, I found it pleasant to read a contemporary (or is it historical now?) book where no one had a cell phone or social media. The music references weren’t ultra-hip, in fact, I think the author deliberately chose timeless references, and that helped the novel a great deal.

I really liked the main character, Dana, who didn’t necessarily know what she wanted to do in life but once pointed in the right direction, and with the appropriate encouragement (mainly spite), could achieve anything. Case in point: Dana, for some reason, is picked to be in a girl band with her BFF Olivia, the musical queen who has been training for this her whole life like a more likeable version of Rachel Berry from Glee.

Even as Dana has no training and can’t really sing – and exactly WHY she was picked, apart from it being the plot point, actually kinda makes sense to me because I remember early Australian Idol auditions where if you didn’t look a certain way it didn’t matter if you could sing or not you wouldn’t go through, but if you looked a certain way and couldn’t sing all that well you still got picked – think of the Spice Girls, and I say this as a lifelong fan, the only decent singer among them is Mel C and the rest have, attitude, personality, looks, and can dance a bit. Anyway Dana works hard, putting in extra practice time to catch up, and I liked that about her, even if she wasn’t really sure she wanted to be a pop star – which is OK! It’s OK to now know what you want to do with your life, and it’s OK to not jump in with both feet in the pursuit of fame. I definitely think this would have hit a whole lot different if it were set in modern times, since fame is so easily accessible to so many people now and we’re utterly swamped with people trying to get their 15 seconds – or is it a TikTok reel’s worth now?

Whereas I liked Dana, I really liked Will. Will! There was just something so earnest about him, like a loyal golden retriever. He was sweet and totally into Dana, even if his main reason at first for being so was because of her looks. Again, that’s OK! They’re eighteen years old and only just getting to know each other. I do feel that they also developed something deeper and more meaningful while they did so, though. I even felt the reasons for keeping the relationship a secret from bestie Olivia seemed organic, so I couldn’t be mad about that.

Actually, the whole ‘I stole your boyfriend’ thing hit me pretty hard since something similar happened to me in high school, but real-life boys are trash and Will is a complete sweetie. You can’t steal a person! Will can’t help that he doesn’t feel that way about the ‘I saw him first’ girl. Will is way more developed and mature than many, many real-life teen boys I knew once upon a time – maybe that’s why I like him so much!

I also really liked the attention given to the setting – I really felt the Florida heat and humidity as I was reading this, and every time Dana got into a swimming pool I felt the same relief she did.

There is a pretty important plot point of Olivia’s eating disorder. It’s on the page. Unfortunately, it’s also dealt with in a very 90s way. As in, it’s basically encouraged by the adults, and Dana, being a literal child, has no idea how to really help except to monitor Olivia and

I do however have no idea why this book is called Fireworks. Dana views a couple of fireworks shows, but they’re not particularly poignant. She’s not what you would call a spitfire, or particularly feisty, or in any way the embodiment of the aforementioned ‘firework’. The only reason I can think of the title for this book is more of a ‘one bang and it’s gone’ kind of thing, a flash in the pan metaphor that ties directly in to the ending, which I didn’t particularly like but upon reflection can see why it works.

The book was never about Dana becoming a popstar or famous. It was about Dana, who never had any direction in life and thought she was destined to the curse of a unknown small town, finding out she can actually do things if she sets her mind to it. And I think that’s a really important message for everyone.

I just want to point out that it’s 2022 and I am reviewing an ARC of this book I received from Edelweiss in 2016 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It’s been a long time coming, with other review books getting prioritised over this one, the actions of which I regret. I’m working through my old ARCs because I feel bad for never getting to them.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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