Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler 
Series: Behind the Scenes #2
Published: June 30th, 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Genre: Contemporary upper YA/NA
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my review of Behind the Scenes || Read my review of Last Will and Testament}

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.

Under the Lights was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint! I read the first book in this companion duology, Behind the Scenes, shortly before reading this one, so I was excited to see where things would go with Josh and Vanessa.

Under the Lights deals with a lot of issues while still managing to be a fairly light, amusing, and overall positive read. Despite the two main characters being actors in Hollywood, they deal with ‘real life’ things, which I loved. Things like parental issues, falling in love, friendship problems, coming out, racism, sex, and just growing up in general. They experience the fun, glamorous aspects of Hollywood life you’d expect, but they feel like real teens you can relate to.  

Josh is one of those characters that a lot of people probably hate. He’s not supposed to be likeable - he’s a dick, and he’s the first to admit it. I kind of loved Josh, though. Or at least loved to hate him. In a weird way, I understood him, and I appreciated that he was who he was and he didn’t give a crap what anyone thought. His growth was one of my favourite aspects of the book, because I didn’t necessarily expect it. It could have gone horribly wrong and felt forced or cheesy, but it felt so natural and within character. Adler did a fantastic job of taking a difficult character and making him...slightly less difficult. He was still Josh, just a little more evolved.

Vanessa was easy to connect with, too. She loves acting and likes being a part of Hollywood, even if it means having decisions made for her, like pretend-dating certain guys because it looks good for their careers. She goes along with it, because it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, and she knows it’ll help her image. She wants to be a role model, someone people can look up to, and also a beacon of hope in a way, to show other people of colour that it's possible to get roles in Hollywood and be successful. Like with Josh, I loved Van’s growth. A lot of that came once she befriended Bri and their relationship started to evolve into something more. She started wanting things she never knew she wanted (like hot tattooed redheads), and things she knew she wanted, but didn’t know how to achieve (like independence from her strict, controlling parents). I really enjoyed watching her relationship with Bri progress, and I appreciated that there were realistic complications and obstacles, and things didn’t happen easily. And, not gonna lie, I also appreciated that it didn’t shy away from the hot girl sex!

Under the Lights is a highly entertaining, emotional, sexy read about friendship, love in its many forms, and self-discovery. I cried happy tears through the last 10% of the book because everything came together in such a natural, beautiful, perfect way. I was proud of these characters and felt like I was a friend who got to watch their growth and cheer them on from the sidelines. I have now officially read and loved all of Dahlia Adler’s published books, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Have you read Under the Lights? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have a favourite YA or NA f/f book? How about a favourite character you love to hate? Let's talk here or on Twitter!

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