While I own copies of both How to Love and 99 Days, I haven’t read either of them yet. When I saw the cover for Fireworks, however, I thought it was one of the prettiest book covers that I’ve seen in a long time, and I was super excited about this book. Couple in the fact that the setting is during the 90’s when boy and girl bands were incredibly popular, and you had me for sure. I grew up in the 90’s, so I really figured that this book was going to be everything I loved.
Dana and Olivia live in Georgia and have been best friends forever. They do everything together, and spend pretty much all of their time together – Dana even spends her days and night over at Olivia’s house, where Olivia’s mother is way more caring and understanding than her own mother, who is absent most of the time and spends the rest of her days drinking and living her own life. When Olivia asks Dana to come with her to auditions in Florida for a girl group called Daisy Chain, Dana is hesitant at first, but finally agrees to come to help support Olivia. After all, what are best friends for?
When they get there, Dana is called in to audition, even though she had no interest in it. She essentially auditions as a joke, and surprise! She and Dana both get called back to be members of the girl group. Excited and in disbelief, they both pack their things and move into their new Florida apartment with their bandmates, Ashley and Kristin. While Olivia hits it off with the new girls from the very beginning, Dana thinks they are shallow and not her type of friend – instead, she spends her days missing her friends from her hometown, while not putting too much serious effort into being a part of the band.
When Olivia starts drifting and forming a close attachment with the other girls, Dana is left alone, and she quickly develops an attachment to a guy from the boy band Hurricane State, Alex. While she tries to hide their obvious attraction to each other, because he has been Olivia’s crush for years, Dana finds herself hurt because of the way Olivia is behaving, and completely drawn to Alex even more, to the point where she no longer cares what anyone thinks – especially after she’s tried to come clean to Olivia multiple times, only to have Olivia blow her off for something else.
“I felt like I was magic, like I could bend the entire universe to my will as long as I was up here. I felt confident and powerful and true. I could love this, I realized as we headed into our last song, building to the finale. More than that: I kind of already did.”
As Dana finds herself drawn more and more to the show business scene, committing herself more than ever, she and Olivia drift further apart, especially when Olivia finds out about Dana and Alex. As tensions rise, Dana fights to stay in the band. However, the band eventually gets disbanded when the performances aren’t up to par, and it leaves Dana and Olivia competing for a spot on the summer tour of a lifetime.
While I really enjoyed reading this, and it was one of those books I had a hard time putting down, I really couldn’t connect to either Dana or Olivia’s characters. They two of them treated each other in such a way that didn’t make them seem as though they were the best friends. The way they fought was cruel, not being there for each other when they needed it most. They competed, they fought, and I didn’t like Dana’s character because she was either whining about how she felt like she wasn’t good enough, or she was putting others around her down in order to get ahead.
I also didn’t care much for Alex’s character – especially when Dana caught him flirting with other girls, and she just looked past it and continued on with their relationship anyway.
Finally, I really disliked the way that Olivia’s eating disorder was handled – Dana kept things a secret for Olivia, taking care of her and trying to make sure she was eating, but when they weren’t talking, she just left things go. It seemed like while the author tried to make an effort to talk about an important issue – anorexia, it was done so in a lighthearted fashion that was almost an afterthought – a hurried attempt to throw a serious issue into the book so that it felt like it had more depth than it did. It wasn’t touched upon as much as it should have been in my opinion, and instead kind of left the reader hanging in the end, when that part of the novel was not resolved.
What I did really enjoy about the book was how it puts the reader inside the life of a member of an all girl band, including the highs and lows that come with it. Like I said, I grew up in the 90’s and boy and girl bands were a huge part of my life, so it was interesting to see how things worked out for the members of those bands.
The ending of this book threw me for a loop, especially when another major friendship bond is broken. I really think that the ending of this book would have been better had it been changed around a bit.
As my first Katie Cotugno book, I was kind of impressed, and I’ll definitely read her other novels. I liked this book, but at the same time, it wasn’t what I was expecting – I was a really strong friendship theme above all else. This is definitely a great summer read though!