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.
Katie Cotugno is the New York Times bestselling author of seven messy, complicated feminist YA love stories, as well as the adult novel Birds of California (Harper Perennial, 2022). She is also the co-author, with Candace Bushnell, of Rules for Being a Girl. Her books have been honored by the Junior Library Guild, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee, and the Kentucky Association of School Librarians, among others, and translated into more than fifteen languages. Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, and Argestes, as well as many other literary magazines. She studied Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College and received her MFA in Fiction at Lesley University. She lives in Boston with her family.
This is a perfect summer read. Lighthearted, fun,revolving around becoming a girl band and set in the 90s! Overall I enjoyed this book, I didn't love it. If your looking for a quick, summer read I would recommend this!
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)
“What are you going to do if you don’t do this?” she asked. “I mean it. I’m sincerely asking. Are you just gonna stay here forever?”
This was a YA contemporary story, about two girls auditioning to be pop-stars.
I liked Dana, but I felt like her relationship with Olivia was a bit one sided. Olivia seemed to always be the one deciding what they were doing and pushing Dana to do things that she maybe didn’t want to do, and I started to dislike Olivia a bit. I also found Olivia to be quite selfish.
The storyline in this was about Dana and Olivia both being invited to become part of a girl group called ‘Daisy Chain’, and what happened from there. We got a bit of fighting between the girls in the group, and we also got a bit of romance between Dana and Alex (a boy from a boy band). Olivia once again annoyed me though when the girls were made to compete against each other, as she totally turned her back on Dana when they had been best friends for all their lives.
The ending to this was okay, but I was kind-of shocked by what Olivia did to Dana, and I felt like things weren’t tied up very well because of it.
Thank you goodreads Giveaways and Harper for the opportunity to win an advance reader's edition of Fireworks.
Fireworks is a standalone, young-adult novel written by Katie Cotugno. The fictional plot line consists of two best friends who earn a spot in a major singing competition. Life lessons include the strain on friendship during competition, the shifting of group dynamics, sacrifices and boundaries, self-image and confidence issues when in the spotlight, and how to keep your head up when people disappoint you or when things don't go your way.
Although marketed to the YA audience, it should be noted that this story has language, underage drinking, oral sex, and sex. The descriptions during the sexual acts are minimal, but it is obvious what is happening.
As an adult, I did not enjoy reading this book. It took me a month to get through it. It is very YA for the exception of the content listed but the life lessons for the target population should not be ignored so I rated it as 3 stars. If you have an age-appropriate teen in your home who would enjoy this story of friendship and pop culture, then consider checking it out!
My favorite quote: "Live your life forward."
3/30/17: Status: I won! I am awaiting it via mail currently - will update accordingly.
There is usually something so realistic, convincing and compelling in Ms. Cotugno’s novels. It’s like she’s out to taunt the reader with these unspeakable truths but which actually do happen and she writes about them without restraint and without fear of readers’ disapproval. I kind of like her attitude.
Fireworks is a story about two best friends, Dana and Olivia, where they came from, how close they are and then with their common goal and dreams, circumstances suddenly seem to pit them against each other. It’s not very plausible but still it’s still convincing how Dana could randomly get an opportunity that Olivia gets, one that she probably thought she didn’t want as much as Olivia does, but one she badly needs and how slowly Olivia views it as Dana stealing her thunder or something like that.
It’s something that could possibly really happen especially with best friends because I do believe there’s this very thin and fragile line between best friends and worst enemies and the story accurately potrayed this. And as per her usual solid conclusions that don’t really end in happily ever afters, Ms. Cotugno once again still gave the reader hope, satisfaction and reason very appropriate for the story’s theme.
Just one thing I noticed on the cover,Alex’s hair is supposed to be blond. Lol.
I think I'm crying angry tears. This book was absolutely HORRIBLE! Not the writing, nor the story, not even characters. But a horrible, horrible, horrible friendship and betrayals. Oh, the betrayals... I swear I physically felt that last knife in the back as if I'd experienced it myself.
BEWARE! FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!
So we've got two best friends: one a spoiled rich brat who got accepted into a good college and doesn't have to worry about paying for it; the other poor, with no future and an alcoholic mother as her only family. Both girls get discovered and put into competition against each other, where the winner gets to become a pop star. They create a pact: either they both go on a tour or they both drop out. Eventually, the poor friend lands a contract but turns it down due to their pact. The contract gets offered to the rich, spoiled friend and she takes it, claiming that was the only way she could succeed in life(???), while her broke friend is strong and will find another way.
Fireworks is the 90s stardom book I never knew I wanted. The hard work and intense training shown in the story is exactly what I love to see, and the main character has a complex backstory and is so likeable. What I especially adored is the female friendship between the two main characters, since it is actually goals. Fans of Katie Cotugno’s previous books will not be disappointed with her latest work!
As a sucker for any book related to the arts, I naturally loved this one. What I especially enjoyed is the fact that this book doesn’t skip over the intense training of the band members and just mention the performances. The story is filled with voice lessons and intense dance practise, which I could never survive. However, there is also a cute boy band included, which I could definitely live with.
I loved Dana’s character. She doesn’t have an easy life and has a hard time fitting in with the other girls in the band. Dana is so considerate to her friends and just wants everyone to have a good time. I sympathized with her because she is such a nice person and has a hard time saying no to the other girls. Her character is also so complex and well-developed, which I always love to see.
One of my favourite things about Fireworks is the strong female friendship. Dana and Olivia have been best friends their entire lives and are basically sisters. Olivia even put an extra bed in her room for Dana to use during their frequent sleepovers. It really hurt to see the pressure of the music world start to come between them and watch them slowly start to drift apart. Even so, I think that the fact that Dana goes along with Olivia to live a dream that isn’t really hers is absolute friendship goals.
Fireworks is a musical book filled with the behind-the-scenes aspects of a rising girl band. The main character is so complex and likeable, and the strong friendship is so adorable. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to fans of 90s music.
*Disclaimer: An ARC of Fireworks by Katie Cotugno was provided to me by Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.
Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars
Initial post reading thoughts:
Yeah...I don't think this one was really for me. Things just moved too unrealistically fast and the insta-love was just a no for me. While it was fast paced and it kept me intrigued, I was never really full invested in this story and its characters. And that ending? Not a fan.
What I Liked
The pacing. Unfortunately, the pacing was basically the only thing I enjoyed about this novel and probably the only reason I didn’t DNF it. It was really quick and I was able to breeze through the audiobook, but this was maybe the only redeeming quality for me.
What I Didn’t Like
High school pettiness. I just can’t with high school-esque drama anymore. I’m sorry…maybe my age is showing. I have no problem with novels that take place in a high school setting, but the drama that occurs for no reason or the drama that occurs because someone made a terrible life decision…yeah, I can’t handle that anymore. I end up just rolling my eyes as I’m reading and that’s never a good sign.
The characters. None of them were memorable or even remotely likeable. They all did things that angered me and made me think, could they really be this dumb? I didn’t like our main character Dana, I didn’t like her “best friend” Olivia & I did not like the love-interest Alex. There was just nothing to like about any of them really.
Insta-love. Alex could have been the best character in this novel…and then the insta-love happened which just tarnished him for me. I absolutely HATE insta-love in stories. I’m much more of a slow burn kind of reader. The relationship within Fireworks was just unrealistic.
Too easy. Speaking of unrealistic, the whole concept of this novel was too good to be true. Two girls go to an audition together, one just as support for her “best friend”. while they’re there, the one who’s there just as support gets asked to audition out of the blue as the previous auditions were terrible. She sings Happy Birthday and a few weeks later she gets chosen as part of a 4 member girl group…out of thousands of auditions. Then magically she can sing and dance and what not. Everything just seemed to perfect and easy. I’m definitely not one to talk about the audition process, but this just seemed so farfetched.
The ending. Notice how I used quotation marks around the word best friend in the paragraphs above. Yeah. This ending was terrible.
Overall, Fireworks by Katie Cotugno was just not the book for me. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this author though. I may still give her writing another chance, but it may take me a while to bring myself to pick up another novel by her unfortunately.
This book was cute, and I definitely plan to read more books by the author. I sort-of just felt like the romance in this book was kind-of unnecessary when the real star here should have been the friendship between the two girls.
Sososo excited about a story about boy bands and girl bands set in the 90s. Unfortunately, the part of the book I read did nothing for me. Dana is pretty but an average singer, yet still gets picked to be in a new girl band for her looks. She's a pretty unexciting narrator and a girl who doesn't even seem to care about the band, except that her (talented) best friend gets picked too and they can do this together - cue squealing. But ugh of course they both like the same boy. Who is in a boy band. Guys, I remember the 90s really well, and I wasn't feeling the 90s in this.
tl;dr: Hoped I'd love this, but for me the main character was seriously blah. I think N*SNYC said it best: "I just want to tell you that I've had enough It might sound crazy but it ain't no lie Baby bye bye bye"
Oh, this book made my heart hurt. I admire a lot of things about Cotugno's writing, but in this one, I especially admire her resistance to wrapping everything up too neatly. There is such a familiar bittersweetness to Dana and Olivia's story.
I picked up this audiobook because I had heard great things about this and I wanted a cute fun contemporary for my long roadtrip. Good news - it was cute and fluffy and I did enjoy most of it! Bad news is that I didn't really like the ending and I'm very much sick of the romance in this. I didn't like the main friendship ESPECIALLY because of the ending. Like I am still mad that Olivia just took the tour and disappeared. WHO DOES THAT?!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Fireworks by Katie Cotugno features Olivia and Dana, best friends who live in small town Georgia in the 90s. Dana is poor, with a mother who drinks too much, and no prospects after high school. Meanwhile, Olivia has been dreaming of being famous her whole life. When the opportunity to audition for a new girl group by a famous producer comes up, Dana accompanies Olivia to Orlando - and ends up being picked as part of Daisy Chain as well.
I'm a sucker for any kind of music story, especially ones where people have to train for success. I really liked how Katie Cotugno structured this book, though. It's definitely NOT your typical training-montage-to-big-concert kind of book. Instead, Cotugno focuses on themes of breaking out of a small-town existence, and being strong enough to understand, give, and receive love - platonic and non-platonic.
It's a unique way to approach a seemingly fun setting, but as you get into the book, you realize how perfect it is. 90s Orlando is glitzy with Disney and heat, but it's also a sleazy place where teens are seen as products, and everything feels a little unreal.
[caption id="attachment_3799" align="aligncenter" width="575"] This is 90s Orlando to me: were you a Backstreet Boys girl or an 'NSYNC fan?[/caption]
It's also a place where teens can live relatively alone with little supervision. This leads to a lot of underage drinking and drug use going on, which felt realistic. It's the perfect breeding ground for teen melodrama. Not only is there a sheltered vs. worldly thing going on between the Daisy Chain members, but there's also a lot of jealousy, backstabbing, and frustration. And nowhere is that more obvious than when Dana ends up meeting and liking Alex, the lead in an up-and-coming boy band. Olivia has a crush on him, so there's a forbidden romance/love triangle going on.
I really appreciated that the love triangle was never, ever the focus of the book, though. Nor was the focus the 90s - or even the music. While Fireworks does have moments of levity and 90s-ness, it's a bit deeper than I expected, exploring the realities of girl friendship. Cotugno's writing is confident, and she has a real grasp of what she wants her themes to be. I loved how she used each facet of this one summer experience to show more of the friendship between Olivia and Dana - how they grow, change, move on and stand alone. Above all, Fireworks is a book about learning your own strengths and what you really want - outside of what people might want for you. Book PLAYLIST: I actually had to go and make a whole playlist for Fireworks while I was reading, because it made me super nostalgic for my teen years. I really couldn't decide on a specific song for this book, so just listen and enjoy - and feel free to hit shuffle!
The Final Word: Fireworks is my first Katie Cotugno book, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to my expectations, with thoughtful, considerate writing, a strong and complex girl friendship, and a swoony boy. I went into this book expecting something fun and light, and came out with something more. While I personally would have liked a little more levity from it, I really enjoyed this classic summer contemporary. I whipped through it in a few days, and I'll definitely be reading more Katie Cotugno soon.
Going in I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I was just expecting some crazy girl band drama but got much more than that. Yes, there was definitely drama but there was also friendship. Granted that the ending didn’t really sit well with me in terms of the friendship but it happened for a reason. Dana now will have lots of possibilities for her future.
Dana was a wonderful main character. She has seen a lot of struggle at an early age. Having to take care of her mom and providing to keep the family going. She really needed the chance to shine bright and she got it. She knew how much was at stake for her but still valued her friendship with Olivia more. And I loved her chemistry with Alex. He was so sweet and always believed in Dana. I loved their relationship.
And Olivia was just not good enough for Dana. I did not like her. It seemed like all Olivia cared about was for her career. It was so easy for her to forget her friends back at home and then isolating Dana as well. Nope, I didn’t like Olivia. Specially, with what she did in the end.
This was my first Katie Cotugno book and it’s suffice to say it did not disappoint. I can tell I am going to enjoy her books quote a lot in future.
Well I know not to pick up a book by this author again.
Fireworks is about a girl named Dana and her best friend Olivia leaving their hometown for a shot of being pop stars. Dana's dream isn't stardom- it's just a way out of her town with her alcoholic mom. Olivia has dreamed of this her entire life and Dana joining her should have been a bonus. That is until Dana is the girl that is picked out as being special, and they have to go against each other for a single touring spot. Soon Dana is falling for a boy in a fellow group and her friendship with Olivia is suffering.
It's bad, okay? I'm sorry but it is. I can't think of anything good to say so I'm just going to move on with that. The writing was like, so annoying like, I don't know why everyone talked like this or whatever but like, they did. I thought a setting of late 1990s in the boy/girl band craze would have been interesting but it was never really a thing. I know the times weren't that wild from now but this book could have said it took place today and nothing would have changed.
The main part of the book is supposed to be Dana and Olivia's friendship and how close they are and how important they are to each other in the situation of this fight for stardom. Uh no. I've never seen such a crappy and backstabbing friendship. Early on I realized that all of the characters in this book were awful, even our heroine of the story Dana. Maybe the romance could have spiced it up but.... no. It was boring and the guy was just so perfect, supporting, and everything Dana ever dreamed for. He had no personality besides what he felt about Dana. But don't worry, you get to hear about how attractive Dana is all the time.
Throw in some weird eating disorder that was handled so badly that I wonder why it was even in here, an alcoholic parent that had about 3 pages total only to never be seen again, and a really bad ending that made me more angry than I should have been, and I think I'm done talking about this book.
Maybe this authors other books are better but my favorite thing about this one is how I get to unhaul it now.
Sometimes you pick up a book and you just don't know how it is going to go for you. You've read books by the author and enjoyed one and was conflicted on the other. You like the premise but know it has the potential to go in a different direction than you expect. Because of these things you are almost scared to pick up the book. This was me with Fireworks. I was worried how I would feel about it. I was scared I wouldn't love it. I was scared I would be disappointed or conflicted. Instead I got one of my favorite books of the year. Simply put...it was freaking fantastic.
There was so much I loved about Fireworks. The setting, the characters, the romance, the friendship, the plot, the writing. I loved it all and I loved it all because it meshed flawlessly together. As soon as I started reading and realized these girls would technically be my age now, I was sucked in. Then I got the the 'boy band' part and I was transported to the 90s. Then I got to the romance and I swooned. And finally I got to the heartache of strained friendships and I bawled. The book was magical in its beautiful woven parts and made me a fan for life.
I really can't even find the words to tell you how genuinely in love I am with Fireworks. It was a book that just got me. I felt a connection to it and I just can't explain why. It wasn't what I expected yet it was what I wanted and more. Another must read in 2017.
This was exaaaactly what I wanted it to be. Loved it. And for anyone who approaches 90s-set books with apprehension, this did not give me any "author trying to relive her childhood" vibes; there's nothing that should be remotely difficult for a current teen to connect with here. Those of us who were kids in the 90s will recognize this as being O-Town/Eden's Crush-esque, but for kids who weren't, it'll just feel like being behind the scenes at a slightly tweaked American Idol.
Fireworks is a standalone Young Adult contemporary romance.
The narrator is Dana Cartwright. The book is told in 1st person POV.
The book starts off in 1997 in Jessell, Georgia. Dana and her best friend Olivia are 18 and have just graduated high school.
Dana lives with her mom and they are very poor. Her mom is a drunk who is never there for her. Olivia is in an opposite situation. She comes from a loving family and they don't struggle with money the same way Dana and her mom do.
Olivia has been performing her whole life. She brings Dana with her to Orlando to an audition. Everything changes after that audition.
The book was a cute YA story. I enjoyed it very much. The characters are 18 years old. There is some drinking and sex in the story. But it just read like YA to me. But it's probably not appropriate for anyone too young.
I liked Dana. I liked boy-bander Alex. There was a lot of stuff about pop stars in this story. And I really enjoyed that part of the book very much. It was fun to read about and I did not want to put the book down.
For the most part I enjoyed Dana and Olivia's friendship. It seemed genuine and I loved how close the author made these two girls. But there were definitely things that I didn't love, especially the ending. It really did not work for me. There were a few things that were resolved. But there were other things that I wish had been addressed.
Also, the book blurb makes it very clear that the story takes place in the 1990s. But unfortunately I did not read the book blurb right before reading this book. There is only one mention in the book of it being the 1990s. I saw that but then it was never mentioned again. That really didn't work for me at all since I completely forgot about it. In retrospect there were obviously some current things like cell phones that were not in the story. But Dana was so poor that it didn't click for me. I wish that the time period had been mentioned a few times.
Overall, this was a cute YA story. And I did enjoy it for the most part. I just didn't love where the story went at the end and I needed more of a conclusion than I got.
Thanks to edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for allowing me to read this book.
Quick review for a progressive read. Katie Cotugno's "Fireworks" was a struggle for me to read in places, but in the end, I'm glad I read it, especially considering the turns it took in the story. The ending was bittersweet and not quite the impression and direction I thought it would go given the beginnings of the story. Yet even saying that, I'll admit I struggled to hold interest in the novel for a while.
The story is told through the viewpoint of Dana, a young woman stuck in a small town with a mother who drinks too much, a job that ended upon her graduation, and a struggle to decide how to escape what seems an inevitable future. Dana's best friend Olivia seems to have everything that Dana doesn't: a supportive family, a college career, and a chance to go to be a part of a pop group in what seems to be like an X-Factor music competition. Olivia begs Dana to accompany her to the competition, but Dana gets the shock of her life when she's asked to be a part of the group after an impromptu competition. Alongside a budding relationship with a guy that's a part of rising boy band maintained by the same manager, things seem to be going well in Dana's circles despite rivalries with her group and rising tensions between herself and her best friend as the practices and training roll on.
One might think this is the kind of novel in which Dana is a special snowflake who gets everything she asks for (the prospective accidental singing career, the boy, the supportive best friend through thick and thin with some moments of emotional tension, etc.) and has a talent that makes her the TCO of the work: but that would be far off the mark, especially as the novel finally hits the ground running in a different direction after the midpoint of the novel. I appreciated that it wasn't so predictable and unrealistic as to paint Dana as a practically perfect underdog heroine. She was selfish and immature on many fronts, but the novel showcases places where she makes mistakes, growing and learning from those decisions/interactions on her own accord. Her emotions are palpable to the encounters/betrayals/relationships she has.
Like Cotugno's other novel "99 Days", the decisions and interactions between the characters aren't so much glorified as they are put into perspective relative to the interactions and passions of the characters within. For another point against the narrative, though, I felt an odd sense of detachment throughout the novel that kept it from being a more meaningful experience for me. For one, the pacing was very slow and the setup in the beginning is so cliche ridden and predictable that it was hard for me to feel invested in Dana's experience. I mean, I got that she got the chance of a lifetime, something that seemed to offer an out to the downcast spiral her life seemed to be. Dana's character, I understood, was incredibly passive and going with the flow, being the odd woman out among vocalists - including Olivia - who had been training their entire lives for the opportunity in this 90s-era singing competition (the novel takes place in the late 90s when boybands/girlbands are all the rage. There are spot references to frame the era, but they're not superfluous. I'd argue that they also weren't as immersive as they could've been, though.)
Dana's narration through the novel is at an odd distance and lacks a passion/immersion that I would've thought could've grown with each experience she had with respect to her experiences in Orlando. The romance in this wasn't poorly done for intent, but again - I felt like I couldn't fully invest in it because of the way it was presented: telling more than it showed. The showcasing of the competition and relationships within was weirdly mechanical in dictation and I wish it could've been more intimate and invested.
The latter part of the novel was actually when I finally became invested as I watched the interactions between Dana and Olivia move in some fluctuating high and low tensions, ultimately culminating in something that was less than ideal. I had a feeling it would likely turn out that way after a point, but I was still surprised. I liked the direction, but I didn't like the execution, and I almost wish that Olivia could've had a narrative perspective to see what she thought on the other end of the events that transpired in this story (because I feel like that would've held my attention by being a different take).
In the end, it was an okay novel, but not really one that I loved from Cotugno. I feel like it could've had much better execution for the intent and premise.
Initial Impressions 6/1/17 and full review as posted on The Book Addict's Guide 6/5/17: 3.5 stars Heads up, talking about specifics so there will be SPOILERS.
This book wasn't quiiiite what I thought it would be and that was okay but there were things that just didn't quite fit. I liked Dana a lot but it never really felt right for her to be a part of this pop star world. I feel like it would have been a little different if there had been an expressed interest in singing before she took Olivia to her audition. It just felt so off of Dana to even enter the world of singing and show business without even wanting any part of it before she got there. Maybe that's just me as a big choir nerd not understanding how you can jump into this without a passion for music or performing... I have no idea. Not staying that you HAVE to have experience in order to get into the music industry but trying to think about it as someone who was only a part of choir was overwhelming, not to mention voice lessons, dance lessons, and all of the show biz type stuff that you have to do. I don't know... I just felt like Dana didn't belong there, which I guess was the point, but it felt wrong to take that opportunity away from someone else just because she wanted to get out of her town. There are so many people who have that DREAM and while she may have been a natural performer, I don't know... It just didn't click for me and I actually was not rooting for her to make it in the industry. It really bothered me throughout the whole book and despite the fact that she was actually putting a great effort forth to grow and listen and perform... I still didn't think that was the right place for her and I knew it the whole time. Aside from that, let's not even tap into the fact that four girls are chosen for this girl group and out of four in the whole country, Dana is selected ALONG WITH her best friend, even when she sings Happy Birthday and... that's it. No other auditioning process? No other callback? No tests to see if she even knows how to read music or if she's a good dancer or if she doesn't have an attitude, etc etc etc?? I 100% understand selecting someone for their star quality but people aren't selected because of that alone. There has to be something else going there to make someone think they can turn that person into a star and that the work is going to be worth it. They flat-out didn't see enough of Dana to even know that.
The friend thing bothered me too. One of the reasons I loved Open Road Summer so much was the fact that the best friends were supportive and things didn't get catty. One was the star, one was not, and it wasn't a competition. I didn't like that Olivia sort of abandoned her best friend for the other girls because they had more experience and were, for lack of a better word, cooler than Dana was. I didn't like that this book pitted the two best friends against each other and then Olivia stabbed Dana in the back!!! Ugh UGH UGH. I couldn't stand that.
I also just had more hope that this was going to have some more 90s/early 2000s type feelings with all of those shows like Making the Band and Popstars. That was what I immediately went to when I heard the girls were going to audition for a girl group and there were some feelings of it there but I would have loved to get a little more of that feel. There wasn't much of a time era feel aside from music references, which I would have loved to see more of because HELLO 90S, like the best time ever (ha)! There wasn't that nostalgia that I had hoped for at all.
There were other feelings I got from this book though, in so many ways. I actually felt a lot of Center Stage because of all of the industry moments and things we got to see that happen in closed-door meetings. People get cut from groups, deals are made, people get stabbed in the back, images are created. I also felt some That Thing You Do! and Selena with some of those musical moments about trying to get your music out there and be heard, so that was a fun feeling.
The book was entertaining but I feel like I had a totally different image going in. FIREWORKS is a cute title for it but the cover is pretty misleading for what the book is about (despite the fact that I love it). Things were not really fun and friendly... they were kind of catty. And the fireworks were a small part of the book although related to kind of a big concept. I feel like it made the book seem so much lighter and easy-going and it was intense show business work!
When it comes down to it, I enjoyed the read and it was quick but I can't quite give it four stars because I didn't feel like Dana ever fit into this world and it stuck out to me the whole time. I just felt like everyone was forcing her into that role even though SHE knew it wasn't the right place for her either, even if she did have that star-quality. It made it hard for me to root for her to succeed because I didn't feel like even she wanted it.
When I read Katie Cotugno’s books, How To Love and 99 Days, I instantly fell in love with her writing-style and the home-y and cozy worlds she built. I couldn’t help but compare this book to her previous ones, and realize how to different it was -and not exactly in a good way.
What I realized was how important Dana and Olivia’s friendship was in the story. But here’s the thing; what we got was a recap of a couple of memories showing how ‘close’ they were/are. I personally didn’t see anything special in their friendship. You can’t call a person your best friend just because you’ve known each other since forever -it doesn’t really work like that. True friendship requires unconditional love and sacrifice.
It was hinted a couple of times that Olivia was anorexic. I understand that although Dana was worried about her, she didn’t want to freak her out by pointing out how wrong the ‘things’ Olivia’s doing to keep herself ‘in shape’ are. But ignoring the signs of her deterioration and just trying to convince herself that she was doing the right thing by giving her best friend privacy is not okay. How easy would it have been if she oh-so-delicately told Olivia’s mom about her daughter’s ‘sickness’, doesn’t she deserve to know?
Alex. What I don’t understand was how Dana convinced herself that she was actually in love with him. Sure, he motivated her and always had her back. But seriously, that was the most unrealistic relationship I’ve ever come across.
Overall, it was an ‘okay’ book. Definitely not what I expected from Katie Cotugno. I can’t say that I didn’t see the ending coming… I understand how significant Dana’s character transformation was, but that doesn’t make up for the defects in the book.
Personal Thoughts: As I may have (definitely) mentioned, Katie Cotugno is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors. In fact, she’s definitely in the top three. I love her words to pieces so when I heard that her newest novel would be set in Orlando in the 1990’s during the boy band craze, I couldn’t possibly be more on board. And the cover! And the endpapers! While Fireworks didn’t end up being my new favorite of her’s (the number one spot still belongs to How to Love), I did thoroughly enjoy it, especially for the setting. And possibly the most exciting part (for me) is that a character in the girl band is named Kristin! Spelled the same way as me! I didn’t even care that she’s kind of a bitch because I’ve never read a book with a character that has my name and for it to have been in a Katie Cotugno book just amplifies my excitement.
Plot Summary: Best friends Dana and Olivia leave their small Georgia town and head to Orlando where Olivia is going to be auditioning to become a pop star in a new all girl band being formed and Dana is there as her moral support. During the audition, Dana gets picked out of the crowd to show off her skills and both girls end up being chosen to move to Orlando to start rehearsing. But things get complicated when Dana’s lack of formal training start inhibiting what has always been Olivia’s dream and the girls start to become each other’s competition.
Do I Recommend?: Yes! Especially if you are a fellow fan of the Britney Spears / Christina Aguilera and Backstreet Boys / N’SYNC era.
I'm going to give this a 2.5 because the end was very unsatisfactory. Katie Cotugno tends to write the most problematic main characters who are deeply flawed and make a lot of bad choices or morally conflicting choices that make you wonder who you should cheer for. I saw my friends review and was very confused as to why she hated Olivia but then I finished the book and I can say that both of them are horrible people. This is not a bitter sweet ending. It's a bitter ending.
Having just graduated high school, Dana is faced with a bleak future: a lousy home life in a dead-end town. When she tags along with her best friend Olivia for an audition for a new girl group, no one is more shocked than Dana when she's chosen. Now thrust into a new situation with girls who are hungry for fame, Dana finds the bonds of friendship tested in ways it never was before.
I was excited for Fireworks because (1) I really enjoyed Cotugno's 99 Days and (2) the 90's setting screamed nostalgia. I was well beyond the girl/boy band craze during their heyday but I still remember the time well. While the 90's vibe wasn't particularly strong, Fireworks was still a (mostly) enjoyable read.
Dana was a likable character for the most part and I empathized with her feelings of inadequacy when she compare herself to the other girls who had years of training and practice behind them. She felt as though she was the weakest link and, well, she was. And yet she seemed almost belligerent when this was pointed out or when the coaches were hard on her. Dana seemed to vascillate between "I'm only here to make some bank and stay close to my BFF" and "I'll show them, I'm going to be the best!" So her motivation seemed murky and could change chapter to chapter. Dana also seemed to have a chip on her shoulder about coming from the wrong side of the tracks and made snap judgments about others, assuming they all had charmed lives and came from perfect homes.
Dana had always been able to count on Olivia but as the competition heated up their friendship felt the strain. Instead of keeping them together, the new adventure seemed to be tearing them apart. Dana turned to boy band member Alex, who lived in the same apartment complex and was coached by the same Svengali-like producer. Even though Alex fell into the TGTBT (Too Good To Be True) category, it was impossible not to fall for his good guy charm. He was sweet and funny and genuinely supportive of Dana.
It was hard to understand why Dana was chosen to be part of the group. With no training, no experience (and apparently no real desire to perform), how did she manage to be plucked from obscurity? More than one character made reference to her having "that certain something" but I never fully understood how she managed to pull it off and what made her so special. A despite the girl band theme, there definitely wasn't any evidence of girl power. These girls turned on one another in the blink of an eye and it was all about climbing to the top.
Fireworks was interesting and entertaining but overall a pretty middle of the road read for me. I appreciated the potential but ultimately felt a disconnect with the main character.
Note: This title was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion of the book or the content of this review.
I always feel bad dnf-ing a book because so much hard work and talent has gone into writing/publishing the book. However, with this one I decided to stop while I was ahead.
I dnf-ed at 25%. I think that's a fair assessment of the book and enough to make a decision about it. At where I was at the book, it was probably going to get 3 stars, but I could tell that if I kept reading it then I would've dropped it down to 2 stars. Also, I shot my shot yesterday and got rejected to so I really wasn't in the mood to continue reading a romance novel.
I know that when reading there's supposed to be a suspension of disbelief. Plus, what happened in the novel is totally possible (sometimes). The main girl (I forgot her name. I think it's Dana? I'll just call her Dana) accompanied her friend Olivia to an audition and got chosen even though she didn't audition. I know that's totally possible, it's how the boy who played the main character in the movie Little Boy got cast. But I do think there was something fundamentally different about why they got cast even though they didn't audition. Reportedly, the little boy got cast because the director saw him and the little boy just gave off the right "innocent child" vibes (that's my own words btw). I don't know much else besides that, but that's very different than Dana getting selected. The casting director stormed out screaming about how everyone is wasting his time, he targets Dana and asks if she's auditioning and when she says no he's like "WELL WHY THE HELL NOT?!" So he basically forces Dana to audition even though she didn't want to. She sings "Happy Birthday" but she says her voice cracked while singing it. She does the dance audition, and then for some reason she's chosen.
Suspension of disbelief and all that, but what? If there's more talented girls there then why would they chose Dana? This book also does 2 really annoying things: 1) It's constantly like, "Dana is poor. She is trapped by her life. Her friend is rich. The friend can and should help." 2) It constantly complained about people with actual equipment and clothes designed for performance and dance. What I mean by that is that Olivia (I think that's her name) is like, "Ugh, they're all total snobs" when talking about girls who have dance clothes and shoes and stuff. It's kinda like, yeah, some girls may own all this stuff just for the name and stuff, but others own it because they are passionate about the art and can afford it. It was kinda like if people who use Artist's Loft markers were constantly complaining about people who use Copic markers. They're both good and do what they're supposed to. Just because some people can afford Copics doesn't mean they're snobs, they're utilizing what's availible to them and what's in their price range.
And to relate those two points back to the whole thing of Dana getting cast, it was just weird. It felt very much like a deus ex machina but it didn't make sense. It was like the author was saying, "Wow, Dana has such a crappy life. I wonder what would happen if she was handed not-poverty on a silver platter." And I'm not trying to be rude or blunt here, because I know that many people struggle financially and in other areas of life. I don't want to minimize that problem. I'm just saying that the author seemed to use Dana's home life as an excuse for Dana getting cast and for Dana to agree to it.
Dana and Olivia's relationship was interesting. They're best friends but one is going to leave soon (until she doesn't because, you know, the plot of the book). Olivia has anorexia (I think) and their whole friend group knows that, but they don't do anything about it. If I remember correctly, this is also a relapse because she'd gone to counseling before but then relapsed. Now, I've never had a friend with an eating disorder (that I know of anyway) so I can't confidently say, "This is what I would do" and I will not say, "This is what they should do." But I am a little concerned that her friends don't seem more concerned? Yes, Dana will prompt Olivia by saying stuff like, "Aren't you hungry?" or "Do you want some of my fries?" but at the beginning of the book Dana also says something like, "Olivia's shirt showed her collarbones. They looked sharp. Almost too sharp" (I don't remember the exact wording). Also, they all refuse to tell Olivia's mom or any other adult. Even though I didn't finish the book, I'm guessing that Olivia's condition gets worse. I'm also going to guess that it's because Alex "chooses" Dana over Olivia and Olivia has had a crush on him for years. That's just my guess anyway (remember, I didn't finish the book).
One more thing that discouraged me from continuing the book was the writing style. Something just felt...off? The book takes place in the 90s and I was not alive so obviously I can't really understand the culture and the atmosphere of the time, but something just felt off about the book. The vibes were a mix of the 90s and the 2010s. Also, the character dialogue was trippy. For the most part, they spoke like teens but every now and then the characters would say some really fancy word that straight up sounded like it was from the SAT. But then again, who knows. Maybe students in the 90s casually peppered their speech with SAT words. It was just weird and it didn't vibe right.
Like I said, I always feel bad dnf-ing a book. But this time, I didn't dnf it out of rage, but rather more out of sadness and disinterest. I'm sure it's a fine and dandy book, it just wasn't fine and dandy for me.
Actual Rating: 2.5 MY THOUGHTS I picked this book on a whim. It was available to read and I had liked Cotugo's How to Love, so I decided to go ahead and read this one. Unfortunately, this one wasn't for me.
Dana and Olivia have been best friends forever. When Olivia wants to go to Orlando to try out for a girl band, Dana tags along for support. But while waiting for Olivia's audition, Dana is called out to audition. She gives a BS performance--after all, Olivia is the performer, not Dana--but then Dana gets the call that she made the group. Olivia made it all well and while it sounds like it will all be fun and games, hanging out with her best friend, Olivia starts to distance herself from Dana. Dana cannot sing as well as the other girls and Olivia makes it known that Olivia should be the star and Dana is "stealing" from here. Also, Dana keeps bumping into Alex, one of the members of a boy band living in the same complex. The problem: Olivia has a crush on Alex. And, to make matters worse, it turns out there may only be room for one girl in the band.
This book is not bad, it's just not the type of book I would normally read. I didn't read the synopsis before picking this book up. If I did I might've decided to pass on it because it just says drama drama drama. I'm also not the biggest fan of books about becoming a celebrity. It could be interesting, but it usually goes in the drama direction. I like books featuring female friendships, but this book was mainly focused on a female friendship being torn about by drama. Drama just stresses me out and I definitely don't need any more stress.
This book takes place in the late '90s and that was one of the things that I thought was done well in this book. A lot of YA books I read that take place in recent decades go overboard on the pop culture references which ends up becoming less believable. Despite the music scene in this book, it wasn't overly peppered with pop culture references which made it easier to get into the setting. While the setting felt real, the plot itself was not very realistic and there wasn't really much to it. Its main plot is Dana, Olivia, and the other girls training for the pop star lifestyle. The scenes just went so quickly and there wasn't really much interest in their lifestyle because a lot of it was hardcore voice lessons, dancing, interviews, etc.
There was a lot of focus on Dana as she was trying to deal with this lifestyle and being called a "product". I do think there were interesting themes here that the book was trying to show. Dana always felt like Olivia was the one for the spotlight and that she would never escape her small town. When Dana had difficulty keeping up with the group, she was ostracized by the others (including Olivia), but Dana kept practicing on her own. I liked her perseverance. We're lead to believe that she has the talent and that she could do things if she sets her mind to it, but this fell flat at points. I want to believe this, but she literally got in for singing "Happy Birthday". She's told that they "saw something in her", but what did they see? Someone giving a BS performance? I honestly don't believe that someone would take in someone with absolutely no training and really did not give a crap because these folks care about money and they have to pay loads of money to train Dana without knowing it will pay off.
As for the romance, I had difficulty with the romance. Dana meets Alex by chance and then shortly after realizes that Alex is Olivia's crush. She keeps saying to herself that she has to stop talking to Alex because of Olvia, but she's not true to that. She even tells Alex that she can't be with him because a friend likes him. Alex thinks that is ridiculous and continues to pursue her after she says no. Yeah, I realize that Alex wants to choose who he likes and yeah, Dana does like Alex, but I did not like how he kept forcing a relationship after Dana kept telling him that she couldn't. It did not seem respectful to me. As I said, I don't like drama and the whole romance thing just seemed to add drama, some of which was entirely avoidable. I also just had difficulty understanding why Dana could not step back from Alex and I just really wanted her and Olivia to actually talk to each other about things!
IN CONCLUSION Overall, this was a meh book for me. I actually think some of these ideas could have been interesting, but the plot just did not feel there at times and there was too much drama. The ending itself also was unsatisfactory and did not make sense . I may read more from Katie Cotugno in the future but I may be pickier about which books I read by her.
So this was strictly a nostalgia read for me, although I'm sad to say the (surprisingly few) references to mid/late-90's pop culture weren't nearly enough to salvage what ended up being a disappointing read on multiple fronts.
Let me start with what I did like:
*The '90's vibe. It was nice seeing references to Alanis Morissette, TLC, and other popular artists/songs I listened to in high school and college.
*Cotugno's writing style. Simply put, I like it. A lot.
Unfortunately, I disliked just about everything else.
*The drinking and drug use. I'm really tired of YA authors treating underage drinking as if it's the cool thing to do. It's not. It's illegal. I know the reality is that it happens, but there's a way to be real in books without normalizing and glorifying actions that shouldn't be normalized and glorified. Furthermore, Dana's mother is an alcoholic. Dana mentions on multiple occasions throughout the book how she doesn't want to end up like her mother, and yet she drinks repeatedly - several times to the point of drunkenness. It makes absolutely no sense at all that someone who grew up watching alcohol destroy her mother's life would be so careless with it herself.
*The plot/lack of reality. I went into this knowing it was unlikely to be my type of book, not only because of the storyline but because my first experience with a Katie Cotugno book didn't exactly end well. I was right. Reading this book (excellent writing style aside) was like nails on a chalkboard. It was completely unrealistic. I don't usually use the term Mary Sue (because I think it sounds snobby - who cares if a character is too perfect as long as they're written well?), but I have to use it in this case. Dana was beautiful. She was a great dancer. She apparently also had an amazing voice. She had everything it took to be the next it girl and had still somehow managed to fly under the radar her entire life until a manager plucked her out of obscurity and forced her to audition for a girl band she never even planned to audition for in the first place. She managed to outshine all the other girls who'd had years of voice and dance training, and, you know, actual experience because the powers that be could see that she had this magical"thing" that is apparently required for success in show business - and somehow, that was enough for them to sink massive amounts of money into her. Sounds sketchy, but whatever.
If that was all that was wrong with the story, maybe I could buy it. But it isn't. Dana is also cast as the strong girl who can persevere no matter what. Everyone tells her that, only she doesn't believe it. And while I think she sells herself short sometimes, she's also not the little piece of perfection everyone thinks she is. Some of her decisions are real head scratchers. The worst was . The other big issue I had was with her and Alex. Dana kept insisting . It all just felt so...pointless.
But the icing on the cake is the absolutely awful way Olivia's was handled. Dana admits at one point that Olivia needs more help than she (Dana) can provide, and yet all it takes is Olivia telling her she can fix it on her own and Dana buys it hook, line, and sinker. Sorry. Nope. Not buying it. .
This one gave me a pretty serious case of the sads. I really liked the author's last book, 99 Days, and was therefore super eager to get my hands on this one. Plus, as a child of the 90s, I was psyched! The characters in this book were a bit older than I was then (yes, yes, someone somewhere is older than me) so I expected lots of 90s shenanigans. I got... not much. There were a few references, mostly musically related, but for the most part, it felt like a contemporary novel set today, just with fewer iPhones.
But beyond that, let's talk about the story itself. So, as we know from reading the blurb (and since I trust your reading skills, I won't rehash too much), Dana has been chosen alongside her bestie Olivia to try out for a girl band (think: Spice Girls). Now this to me was a little hard to swallow because out of all the young females the country/world, four are chosen and these two best friends happen to be half of them? Okay then.
Of course, there is a boy band that is already somewhat established (think: NSYNC) who is staying at the same hotel complex. And this dude named Alex is hitting on Dana, but ::gasp:: Olivia had the hots for him once in eighth grade (that is paraphrasing, I don't remember when it was). So Dana tries to be all "Girl Power!" and you know, leave him alone because her best friend saw him first. But alas....
So she goes and sees him in random shady places, as you do. And things are... tense with the girls. I could look up the other two girls' names but it's unimportant. One of them is a typical "mean girl" and the other is just... there. But they aren't meshing well, they either fight or don't speak, and so Dana starts pulling away because she is shadily seeing Justin Timberlake Alex. And he doesn't want to play games.
So this is kind of how the story goes: Dana trying to decide if she really wants to be a singer/performer, Dana fighting with the other girls, Dana wondering if she's "good enough", and then Dana and Alex's relationship situation. I just didn't feel it, to be perfectly honest. Also I have no idea what was so special about her that she was picked to begin with, so that led to a certain level of disbelief. Plus, I didn't like how Dana didn't seem to care about the career half the time, and then wondered why everyone was pissed at her.
I liked Alex as a character, but the others? I could have lived without all of them. The adults were all irresponsible and really didn't care about the girls' welfare, which I am sure is accurate to a degree, but you'd think their families would have intervened a bit. Not Dana's, because her mom was the worst (again, this seemed quite trope-y, add an absent mom into the mix of unbelievably), but surely Olivia's?
Dana did grow a bit throughout the course of the book, which was a plus. She ended up starting to realize what it was she wanted, and applied herself to her goal, which was admirable. Until some stuff happened at the end that left me like "wait- what now?" Spoiler is coming so do not read if you haven't read the book.
I always tell you, you never listen. Hrmph.
Honestly, I just didn't feel that invested in any of the characters, which made me kind of apathetic. Dana and I just didn't click, and I was mad at most of the characters for most of the book. I definitely wanted a more 90s vibe, too. I did enjoy some of the aspects of the romance, and that Dana did have some growth. But I think a lot of people seemed to enjoy this, so I may be the black sheep here!
This review was originally posted on The Moonlight Library 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.
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.