Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray


ARC Review: Fireworks

April 11, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★

ARC Review: FireworksFireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray on April 18th 2017
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: 99 Days
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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.

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.
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.
Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

This was yet another book that I really wanted to like. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this author, but I feel like I’m missing something. I strongly disliked 99 Days and I couldn’t even make it through How to Love. Sadly, none of her books have been for me. I thought this one would definitely be my cup of tea since it takes place in the 90’s and also involves boy and girl bands. I’m sure many contemporary fans will like this one, but not me. Fireworks had a lot of potential that it sadly didn’t live up to. The writer is good, but the plot and characters didn’t work at all. I doubt I’ll be reading any other books from this author in the future.

If you’re a fan of realistic contemporary stories, you’ll probably have some issues right off the bat with this one. The story revolves around Dana going to this audition to support her best friend Olivia. Somehow though, Dana gets roped into auditioning. She’s NEVER had any type of vocal lessons or any musical theater experience in her life, yet we’re supposed to believe that the man in charge picks her over all the more experienced girls? Nope, I don’t buy that this would happen to her just because she’s pretty.

It also takes place in the 90’s, which I originally thought was awesome. Truthfully, I found myself forgetting the time period most of the time. It didn’t seem like it took place back then besides a few TLC and Spice Girl references. The love interest of the story happens to be in a boy band, yet there’s no references to any other boy bands that were around in that time period. Maybe she was just trying to be creative, but I felt like that would have made the book just a little better. I hope that more people write stories that take place in the 90’s in the future, but only if they actually make it seem like it’s that decade.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. I liked how sex positive it was all around. I just didn’t think Alex was a great character. He didn’t have much development, his whole purpose was basically to continually tell Dana how wonderful and perfect she is. Aside from that, we truly don’t know much else about him besides the fact that he comes from a decent family and has money. Did anyone else think it was creepy as hell how he would just randomly pop up literally everywhere that Dana would go by herself? For example, she goes down to the pool in the middle of the night, and he just randomly pops out of nowhere. It was a little weird in my opinion.

I think it’s misleading that people consider this to be a friendship novel. Going into this, I was expecting a really positive and strong female friendship but that’s not what I got. Without saying too much, the friendship is not what I was expecting it to be. Olivia is an unlikable character. I did sympathize with the fact that she had an eating disorder. Maybe it’s because one of my best friends struggles with an eating disorder, but I felt like it wasn’t treated with respect. It felt more like a plot device than something that was truly explored and developed. It bothered me that not only Dana but especially the adults didn’t take her eating disorder more seriously. This is an issue that so many teens deal with, and I felt like it could have been more carefully written as a whole.

Even though this book just released, it already seems as if I’m in the minority with my opinion. I don’t think that this author is bad by any means, but it seems like her style and plots just don’t match up with the books that I enjoy reading. If you’re able to get past all of the cliches and unrealistic things, you might like this book. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t absolutely terrible. I didn’t have to force myself to read it, I was pretty sucked into it. I just wasn’t able to get past all of the other key elements of the story.



My Heart and Other Black Holes Review

August 23, 2015 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

My Heart and Other Black Holes ReviewMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray on February 10th 2015
Pages: 302
Source: Library
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Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.
Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

Going into this book, I was expecting something completely and totally depressing. For most of the first half of the book, it’s just that. However, if you’re someone who stays clear of dark books that talks a lot about depression, don’t shut down this book just yet. It’s surprisingly witty due to the narrator Aysel’s sharp sense of humor. This is a different type of book and one that I strongly recommend for a number of reasons.

Aysel is a girl who no longer wants to live. She finally puts her suicide plan into action by going online and finding a suicide partner. She finds Roman, a boy who lives pretty close to her and who is nothing like she pictured once they meet in person. He isn’t a geeky looking kid, he is an athletic and attractive boy who seems to have no reason to want to die. However, a family tragedy haunts him and causes him to be determined that he doesn’t deserve to live. Once the two get closer, Aysel starts to see all of the dark parts of Roman and still likes him anyway. Is that enough for the two to live?

It’s hard to describe it, but Aysel is a one of a kind character. I love how quick on her feet she is, and the way she uses sarcasm and witty comebacks as her weapon of choice. I also loved how the author worked in physics into the plot. Aysel is obsessed with Einstein’s theories and is constantly questioning gravity. I found that to be unique and even though I personally am not a fan of Science, I still thought that it was interesting. Roman is something else completely. I love how real and down to earth he seemed. I also liked that he was into art and him drawing Aysel is one of my favorite scenes in the book. My heart breaks for him in terms of why he wants so desperately to die. I just wanted to give him a hug. I enjoyed his relationship with Aysel and watching it grow, despite both of their objections to let anybody in.

The reason why this book didn’t receive a perfect rating from me is because of the end. I won’t spoil it, but I felt like it wasn’t the right route to go considering how the first part was written. Meaning, it just didn’t seem in character considering all that was developed in the first half of the book. It’s difficult to explain without explicitly stating it, but you’ll know what I mean once you read it. Overall though, it’s a beautifully written debut that really captures the realities of mental illness in a refreshing and real way. I got seriously wrapped up in the main characters and invested in what was going to happen next to them. I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a read that will instantly catch your attention.