Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age
Publisher: Harper Collins/Blazer + Bray
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenges: #ContRom2017, #NGEW2017
Dana had just graduated from high school, and resigned herself to the fact, that she would waste the rest of her life away in Jessel, Georgia. After joining her best friend, Olivia, at an audition, she is offered a spot in the band. This is an opportunity to get out of Jessel for good, an opportunity for a future, but will she be able to choose that future over her best friend?
Front and center in this book, is the friendship between Dana and Olivia. These two life long friends are described as being attached at the hip. Olivia has always wanted to be a star, and Dana was always there to support her. The friendship hits quite a few bumps during this story, as Olivia struggles with sharing the spotlight with Dana. For all these years, the roles have been clearly defined, and now, Dana is attempting to step outside of that box. There were so many times I wanted to smack Olivia in the face. I was just so disappointed with her, but then, she would do something to redeem herself. This back and forth went on a bunch, and I was pretty over wanting to salvage this friendship. That is probably what kept me from rating the book slightly higher. I also felt it was somewhat one sided. Dana was always expected to give and give and give. She was always supposed to put Olivia's needs above her own, and that is just not how healthy relationships work.
That brings me to a part I really liked: the coming of age story. The three months in Orlando was quite a journey for Dana. She learned so much about herself, and exceeded her own expectations. She learned some hard lessons too, but I am happy to say, she was a better person at in the end. Her choices were not always the best, and they did not always yield favorable results, but she embraced the lessons learned, and those lessons helped shape her later choices.
Now, for my favorite part - the romance! I really loved Alex and Dana together. I shipped them so hard, and it's because their relationship was everything that Dana and Olivia's was not. Alex brought out he best in Dana. He encouraged her, supported her, and believed in her. He forgave her when necessary, and was honest with her. He knew when to advance and when to retreat, but he would not allow Dana to weasel her way out of things just because they were difficult. He was the perfect first love for her, and I could not have asked for anything better for Dana.
One thing that I thought was executed so well in this book, was that feeling of desperation and being trapped. Dana felt trapped in her small town. She felt imprisoned by her circumstances. She was poor and jobless with a mother who was a drunk. There was no college in her future. She did not have many opportunities presenting themselves. This is why the Orlando gig was so important. Why couldn't her "best" friend see that?
Yes, this idea of feeling trapped with no future in sight is sort of heavy, but I thought the tone of the book was fairly ideal. When I looked at that cover, I expected something sort of fun, and Cotugno definitely delivered on that. The issues presented, were handled in such a way, that they did not weigh the story down. It was a great balance of heft and fluff.
Overall: A fun and entertaining coming-of-age/romance with some great takeaways.
**I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for the advanced copy of this book