From the New York Times bestselling author of 99 Days and How to Love comes a stunning new contemporary novel—all about boy bands, girl bands, best friends, and first love—perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.
It was always meant to be Olivia. She’s the talented one, the one who’s been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, is the levelheaded one, always on the sidelines, cheering Olivia on.
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, Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.
Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
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.
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.
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.
FIREWORKS by Katie Cotugno is out in bookstores now. Have you read it or are you planning to read it? Are you into 90s bands or music? How about books about friendship? Backstreet Boys or ‘NSYNC? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts!