I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
Series: Daylight Falls #2
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 30th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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.
Let it be noted, for the record, that I love Dahlia – who is just a super awesome author person and super fun to talk to. But be that as it may, I wasn’t expecting to fall quite so deeply in love with Under the Lights. This is a wonderfully different and excellently fluffy LGBT book that just filled me with so much happiness. More ladies kissing, forever and always!
I started reading Under the Lights when I didn’t quite feel like working on my blog, intending to just take a small break and read, at most, 50 pages or so. Instead, I read more than half of the book. Um, yeah. I was instantly absorbed. The story follows Vanessa, Ally’s best friend from Behind the Scenes, and Josh, a fellow teen celebrity who Ally played assistant for before leaving to college. The story that follows is filled with voice about the pressures of young Hollywood, finding your independence and own path in life, and, in Vanessa’s case, falling in love in an unexpected way.
Fans of celebrity stories definitely should get in on this. Obviously, there are a lot of fun times, on set, partying, and living lives of privilege, but Under the Lights also exposes a lot of the pressures placed on teen celebrities. Vanessa loves acting but is pressured to be the perfect role model at all times. She has to fight for her place in Hollywood, where there’s hardly any room for Asian actors to really flourish, while her conservative parents want her to quit acting and go to college. Josh has had his celebrity status basically handed to him since birth, due to his soap opera star mother, but while he loves the perks (the drinking, the money, the sex), he finds it really hard to care about the work itself. Celebrity behind-the-scenes type stories are basically instant Debby bait, but I’ve found it really hard to find books that do it well. But believe me when I say that Under the Lights is basically the best take I’ve found on it so far.
The friendship that develops between Vanessa and Josh also just made my heart soar. Obviously, with the fact that the book is written in their dual PoVs, your gut instinct might tell you that they’re going to fall for each other – even though the cover is undoubtedly indicating something else will happen. However, instead what develops (excruciatingly slowly) is a caring and understanding friendship. Vanessa and Josh are so different, with Vanessa being the good girl teen role model and Josh being the devil-may-care playboy, but their celebrity status puts a lot of pressure on both of them to behave in certain ways. So they find comfort in each other, even though they start the book pretty much hating each other. You’d think it’s Debby bait for me to ship that, but instead I just friendship it so hard. When things get really tough for Vanessa, Josh becomes an unlikely accepting and supportive friend – and this, in fact, makes Josh grow a whole lot as a person. He’s not too likable at the start of the book, but he definitely redeems himself by the end.
But most of the focus of the story is on the romance, and how this shapes Vanessa’s identity. And oh boy. I love it. So much. Brianna is so confident and vibrant, and her beauty just pops off the page. When you read Vanessa’s thoughts about her, it’s not hard to imagine why she’d fall for her. They have an instant connection, with an excellent banterous back-and-forth, but obviously this is not uncomplicated. Vanessa’s in a sort-of-fake relationship and has never even entertained the thought that she might be gay. And obviously, as a teen celebrity in the spotlight, that wouldn’t exactly be encouraged by her PR team. But the chemistry is basically off the charts, and I just love how horny these ladies got for each other.
Ultimately, this romance motivates Vanessa to make some drastic changes in her life. Though she is a celebrity and a role model, she’s still a human who doesn’t deserve the pressures and expectations placed on her. Instead of constantly pleasing everyone else, she fights for what she wants, and what kind of role model she wants to be. And that just made me so happy and made me think about the way our culture is judging celebrities so unjustly. There were incredibly moving scenes when she was coming out, and the way that her friends reacted basically made me so happy. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, and some people definitely have more trouble accepting it than others, but the overall tone of the book is one of acceptance and happiness. And basically, that’s how I want my LGBT stories to be. I know it’s tough for a lot of people and can cause so much hardship, but I really love these visions of a truly accepting society which above all treasures love – no matter which form it takes.