The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Sister Review

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Sister Review

Photo credit: Sarah, Strikes of Luck

This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. We read a book and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives.

This review might contain spoilers! We might discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish for the story to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post!

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Sister ReviewThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 519
Format: Hardcover
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Goodreads
three-half-stars

Andie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

Iris asks Merel: 

Of all the Morgan Matson books you’ve read so far, where does The Unexpected Everything rank? 

Good question! My favourite book of hers is Save the Date, and Since You’ve Been Gone is my number two. To me, The Unexpected Everything and Second Chance Summer are about at the same level. With both books I had some difficulty identifying with the main character at first, which made it harder to get in to the book. Both are good stories, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Save the Date, which I loved and made me laugh out loud a lot!

What did you think of the relationship between Andie and her father, or more specifically how it develops over time?

Andie and her dad have a very complex relationship, partly because both of them have such a hard time talking about their feelings. I don’t think it’s weird that their relationship was so strained at the beginning. They had lived different lives, pretty much all the time apart from each other, for the last five years. But both of them had played a part in that. Neither of them ever mentioned how they felt which made them drift apart and practically become strangers. 

I do get that Andie had a hard time adjusting after her father got home and started ‘being a dad’ since she had been living without him for the last five years.  I  enjoyed the fact that they started spending more time with each other throughout the book: doing it on their own terms, trying to build their relationship. In the end they got to a good place, and I did think that it was written in a realistic way: their relationship wasn’t perfect all of a sudden, they both had to put time and effort in it. 

Clark has to be one of my favourite book boyfriends of all time. How do you rate Clark on the book boyfriend scale?

He was pretty amazing! I really liked the detail of him being a bestselling author himself. Oh, the rating part is difficult though… I kind of have different lists, haha. But to me, Clark reminded me of Levi from “Fangirl”, so that means he did really well! 

One of my favourite things about this book is the fact that it is all about friendship. What did you think about Andie’s friendship with Palmer, Toby and Bri (you MUST mention the scavenger hunt here)?

Palmer: I think Palmer was the most evened out of the group. Out of all four she usually made the most grown-up decisions. I liked her a lot, she was a great friend and I loved how she set up a scavenger hunt and how invested she was in it. I think we can both relate to that part, haha. Therefore, I also understood her disappointment when Bri showed up empty-handed (for reasons I’m pretty sure we both guessed right then before the big secret came out…)

Toby: Toby was a great girl with a lot of insecurities. I think she had a hard time living under Bri’s shadow, but she also enjoyed it, because that way not all the attention would be on her. I think it was a good thing that she and Bri spent some time apart. This way she had time to figure out who she is and what she thinks is important in life.  

Bri:  I have to admit that of all friends, Bri I remembered least about. It took me a bit of time to have it come back to me. I think that, just like Toby, Bri experienced some of the negative parts of having such a close friendship – to the point that they can’t even keep you apart. She always tried to think of Toby first, so it was a good thing for her as well that they got separated for a while. She totally handled the guy situation wrong, but I do understand how she felt. Oh! And I have to say, if you name your cat Mr. Cupcakes, you should expect an evil feline… I don’t think any feline would appreciate that name, haha.

Topher: In a way Topher wasn’t a friend, and in a way he was. He helped her a lot when her dad started doing his work, and in the end you do learn that he liked Andie more than he let on. But his personality throughout the story wasn’t one that made me like him a lot. He wasn’t a bad guy, but I wasn’t rooting for him either. Quite some times I got a bit annoyed when he was mentioned, but that had more to do with the fact that I disagreed with Andie’s decisions than with him. 

Clark: I’m totally going to use this moment to gush about Clark, because they were friends first! I liked Clark.. A lot! His awkwardness and nerves made him so human. I think his character was well rounded since he also had his flaws (I mean the killing Majorie and .. part, that was harsh!),  but he also compensated for them and he had a huge heart. I totally loved the part where he found out that Andie didn’t read: “Wait, I’m sorry, but how do you not read books? Like-what do you do on planes?”  This made made me laugh, because for a fellow bookworm, this is such a relatable moment!  

I don’t mind long books, but I felt like the plot was a bit all over the place, especially near the end. What did you think of the plot?

I think at the beginning the storyline was quite clear: the scandal with her dad led to Andie losing her carefully made plans, which led to her having to unexpectedly (see what I did there?) figure out something new. By starting the job as dog walker she met Clark and learned new things about herself so she could grow. I could see all the different drama’s coming from a mile away, so it’s not like they were randomly thrown together, but I do understand what you mean. It wasn’t just drama with her dad, or her friends, or with Clark. We got all three of them tangled up in each other. In a way this could resemble certain teenage moments, but it did lead to the story being all over the place.

Merel asks Iris: 

When it comes to Morgan Matson’s books there are two possible scenarios for me: either I get pulled right in or the first 100-150 pages are a bit of a struggle and then I’ll enjoy it. Can you relate to this? If so, in which scenario did The Unexpected Everything fit for you?

I can 100% relate! I almost always end up loving Morgan Matson’s books, but sometimes I find it a bit hard to fully get into the story. This was the case for The Unexpected Everything. It took me a bit longer to get into the story, which is the complete opposite of my experience reading Save the Date. A little further into the story I did manage to get into it and I definitely enjoyed the book, just not as much as Save the Date

As we know, European and American teen life can be quite different. How do you feel about this? Do you think this made it harder for us to relate to Andie?

I feel like the whole senator’s daughter ‘thing’ was a bit hard to relate to. However, that mainly because that’s just so far removed from what is known to me. Aside from that I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble relating to Andie. I could relate to how much the story revolved around friendship. It was, however, a bit hard to relate to how focused she was on making sure there was no gap on her CV. The university system is just very different in the Netherlands. I feel like we’re more focussed on just enjoying summer instead of finding an impressive job for your CV.

What did you think of the storyline? Do you think it was realistic? 

The plot felt a little bit all over the place. There was a lot going on all at once. Where the story was quite slow, the end felt VERY rushed to me. In a way, this is what made realistic as well, though. (I realise that sounds a bit ‘all over the place’ as well…) It did somehow work: The Unexpected Everything was enjoyable (even if the plot felt a bit messy to me).

What did you like most about The Unexpected Everything and what was your biggest dislike? Who was your favourite character and which character did you dislike the most?

You do realise this is four questions all disguised into one? CHEATER! I LOVED the role friendship played in the story. I love a good friendship heavy story and The Unexpected Everything definitely delivered! THAT SCAVENGER HUNT WAS EVERYTHING! My biggest dislike was probably the ending, which I won’t spoil, but felt a bit rushed. I feel like Clark is what book boyfriends are made of and he is definitely one of my favourite characters! My least favourite… Well, if you’re allowed to cheat with the amount of questions you ask, I’m allowed as well. I can’t think of anyone I truly disliked!

Morgan Matson is an amazing YA Contemporary/Coming of Age writer. Are there any authors you would recommend to dans of Morgan Matson? 

YES! Jennifer Armentrout, Rainbow Rowell, Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, and MANY MORE. There are so many talented contemporary authors, but these are definitely some of my favourites.

three-half-stars
The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister Review

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister Review

This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. We read a book and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives: that of an English (Iris) and medicine student (Merel).

This review might contain spoilers, as we may discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post.

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby | Sister ReviewThe Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby
Published by HarperTeen on August 7th 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 312
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-stars

Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself.

Iris asks Merel:

You never hiked a trail like in The Other Side of Lost, does reading about the John Muir trail make you want to do so?

As you know, we have plans to walk the West Highland Way, but because of conflicting schedules we, unfortunately, haven’t gotten to it. The Other Side of Lost did make me want to speed up the plans! I do believe that hiking a trail, like the one Mari did in The Other Side of Lost, allows you to get to know yourself in a different way. The type of society we live in is so active and I feel that I always have to respond to things immediately. I think taking a break from all that could open your eyes to what is truly important in life.

Did you think The Other Side of Lost needed the romance, or would you rather have read about Mari’s journey without the romance?

Well, I am a sucker for a good romance, but I don’t think the book necessarily ‘needed’ the romance.  I loved the bits where you could see something growing between Mari and the love interest, but the book was about Mari’s growth and her process of overcoming her fears and loss. Had the romance been present even a little bit more than it was it would have bothered me, but as it was in the story I did not mind it one bit. I loved all the romancy-parts!

Mari sets off on her hike without telling her mother (but she does leave her a message). In the book, it is not touched upon what her mother thought of her daughter’s decision. What did you think about that?

Ha, I am happy you asked! In a way I thought the ending was beautiful. Mari learned a lot about herself and I think the ending symbolises that character development. However, I do not think it is very realistic. Even though she faced herself and her actions during her journey, she never truly faced it back in ‘the real world’ where she struggled so hard to appear as the perfect person. Moreover, she never faced the consequences of her actions. Her leaving like that, not saying anything to her mother. I do not think any mom would be okay with that. Facing her mom and aunt, and maybe even the loss of her cousin would have made the story complete for me.

What did you like most about The Other Side of Lost?

Oh, this is a horrible question to ask! How can I choose… There are multiple things I loved about The Other Side of Lost, so I’m going to split this question up!

Favourite character: I could easily choose Mari. She is easy to relate to and very likable. However, I am going for Josh! To me, he represents everything this book is about. He had his own struggles, but always made time for others. I loved how Josh knew who Mari was from the very beginning, yet never judged her or made her explain herself. He respected her for being there and gave her the space to figure things out on her own. Additionally, Mari and he had great chemistry, so that worked in his favour, haha.

Favourite moment: There are quite some moments that made me laugh out loud. (Yet another reason why I really enjoyed this book.) But I think the moment that made me laugh the hardest was after Mari was nearly swept away by the river and all her stuff was wet. When they went to bed she realised that she didn’t have a tent or sleeping bag to sleep and I laughed very hard at how they tried to make sure that Josh would share his sleeping bag with her. Especially when they yelled at them from inside their tents.

Favourite part: I love how Mari came to realise that she was worth more than the amount of likes and comments on Instagram and that only she could decide her own worth. The fact that she met some truly amazing people who liked her for who she was (and how they helped her get to that point) made me fall in love with this story even more. And I don’t just mean the friends she made along the way (who are all individually amazing by the way), but I’m also talking about Bri’s guidance. Bri’s quotes from her travel journey always seemed to fit what Mari was experiencing, and they too helped Mari overcome her difficulties and insecurities. Mari walking and finishing the hike that she and Bri had planned to do as kids represented more to me than just a beautiful ode to her late cousin. It also represented her overcoming her struggles and finding her way back to herself to who she was as a person.

In the book, there is a stark contrast between the protagonist’s reliance on social media and her sudden venture into nature. What are your thoughts on that?

I do think that switch was a bit sudden. However, I think it was balanced out by the various moments where she has to fight the urge to take a picture and how she described the way she could use the light to her best advantage or what pose to make. So even though the change is sudden, it’s not like she immediately forgot about her online habits. If that had been the case it would not have been very realistic. I did like how in the end she took a photo of her/Bri’s boots at every stop!

What did you think of the side characters?

I liked most side characters in The Other Side of Lost. While some of them were a bit flat, it did not bother me. Looking at the storyline, I think this has to do with the fact that they did not need to have a whole lot of depth because the story was first and foremost about Mari. They were fleshed out enough to get a feel of them and that was enough for me. However, that does not mean that I did not enjoy reading about them! I liked Beau’s humour, how Vanessa looked out for Mari and how Bri sometimes made an appearance.

Merel asks Iris:

You, much like Mari, are very active on social media. Have you ever felt the way like Mari did at the beginning of The Other Side of Lost?

The thing about social media is that is it is really easy to lose focus of that matters and why you share your content. I love taking pictures and talking about books, which is why I talk about it on social media and share lots of pictures. However, it is so easy to think that people do not like what you post because they do not comment or like your picture. It is such a fine line and it can sometimes really get to me. I think we all want people to like what we do, and that is exactly what makes it so hard when they do not. Social media makes it so easy to show and see only the happy moments in life. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that EVERYONE has bad days. I have never truly felt like Mari felt at the beginning of the book, but I did come scarily close to it. The way The Other Side of Lost deals with these themes is what makes it a very powerful story.

Did you ever witness/receive a backlash like Mari did after her confession?

I definitely witnessed a lot of negativity and mean comments on social media. That is the thing I perhaps like least about it. I never experienced anything as bad as Mari did, but I have experienced some downright mean comments. You try not to let it get to you, but the truth is that it is hurtful and the mean comments always stick with me more than the positive ones.

Mari’s hiking the John Muir trail practically untrained. As a hiker yourself, did that bother you? Do you think it is realistic and safe for an untrained person to undertake such a hike?

Hiking a trail like that untrained is something I would never ever do. The risk of injury is big, and inexperience can be incredibly dangerous (can even get you killed). I would never undertake something of the sort untrained, however, that does not mean it does not happen. I know it happens because I have even seen it happen more than once. It does bother me, but there is a slight nuance here because Mari does have the proper gear (not taking in account that she would have had SO MANY blisters because her feet are not used to the hiking shoes or the amount of walking she did). She is taught how to properly use it (after she meets Bri’s friend), which made the story much more believable to me. Is it safe? No. Is it unrealistic? A bit, but it happens more than you would think. I think it did not bother me that much because I knew when I started reading the book that Mari was going in untrained.

What did you think about the ending of the book? To me, some things were resolved, yet quite some things still hung in the air.

One one hand, I liked the way The Other Side of Lost ended, because leaving things open like that is realistic. I liked knowing that Mari had changed as a person and it was up to her to continue the change after her hike. However, on the other hand, I would have liked for Mari’s mother and aunt to have made an appearance at the end. I think that was the only thing I truly felt was missing from the story.

The book showed quite some contrast between ‘online life and friends’ and life as it is experienced offline. What are your thoughts about this? Do you think that this is something that our generation needs to think about?

I do not think having online friends is bad. In fact, I made some great friends online and I love meeting people I know from social media in real like. That being said, there is a certain distance involved and sometimes people can make themselves out to be different than they are. Moreover, people being kind online and ‘liking’ your pictures does not mean necessarily they are your friend. You need to be careful. Careful not to live your entire life online, because that can make you feel incredibly isolated. Fact is, you might have very good friends online, but sometimes you just need to spend time with someone in person, be able to call someone and hang out with them.

And I almost forgot to ask the most important thing of all: What did you think about the book?

The Other Side of Lost was an incredibly enjoyable read. I really like the way it portrayed the negative aspects of social media, as they are themes that certainly need to be addressed more. It was a quick read, once I started reading I finished the book in no time. If you are looking for a meaningful and fun read that won’t take too much time to get through, The Other Side of Lost is definitely the book to choose!

four-stars
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout | Broke my Heart and Mended it in +400 Pages

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout | Broke my Heart and Mended it in +400 Pages

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout | Broke my Heart and Mended it in +400 PagesThe Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance
Pages: 474
Format: Hardcover
Buy on AmazonBuy on Bol.comBuy on Book Depository
Goodreads

five-stars




For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

As anything that Jennifer Armentrout writes is pretty much on my auto-buy list and so The Problem with Forever too found its way to my home. It pretty much inevitable that my Read-Everything-By-Jennifer-Armentrout-Obsession struck again… And boy, what a book! The Problem with Forever definitely won me over (as pretty much every book has done before). It was powerful and moving, and it broke my heart and mended it all within +400 pages.

Mallory was a complex character, sometimes her story was incredibly hard to read, but at the same time she’s relatable and tries so hard that you will root for her every step of the way as she tried to put her past behind her and overcome her fears.  Her character grows SO MUCH throughout the story and has so much depth, it is on of the aspects of the story that made this book shine from beginning to end.

Then there is Rider Stark, who has the whole kinda-bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold going on. Rider and Mallory have so much history together and so much chemistry that all the feels and the sparks just fly right off the pages. He’s artistic and kinda (read: a lot) damaged, which is hardly surprising considering the past they share. Again, so much depth and complexity to his character. I dare you to not fall in love with his character (I’m betting you can’t).

The supporting characters were just as good as the main characters: Mallory’s adoptive parents, Rider’s foster family, Mallory’s best friend! Characters usually make or break for me, and The Problem of Forever is a perfect example of how they can make a book unforgettable. That, and the writing, because, as always, Jennifer Armentrout’s writing was beautiful and on point!

The Problem with Forever is an emotional and inspiring book that will break your heart and mend it again. It’s a beautiful story about what it means to be brave and moving past the difficulties of what is in one’s past. It has wonderfully complex characters with tons of depth that you can’t help but root for along the entire way!

five-stars
Grit by Gillian French | Beautiful Writing, Poor Plot

Grit by Gillian French | Beautiful Writing, Poor Plot

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Grit by Gillian French | Beautiful Writing, Poor PlotGrit by Gillian French
Published by HarperTeen on May 16th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Buy on AmazonBuy on Book Depository
Goodreads

two-half-stars




"His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long"
Raw and moving, this contemporary realistic debut novel will leave readers of E. Lockhart and Gayle Forman breathless as it unflinchingly unfolds the tragic secrets being kept in a small, deceptively idyllic Maine town.

Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.

But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

As the title of this post might give away, Grit wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. When I read the synopsis for the first time I expected a mystery or something thriller-ish, and that wasn’t quite what I got. The story was mostly concerned with Darcy, the main character, and the obstacles she has to overcome in the course of the story. Which is fine, just a slight adjustment of expectations, if it wasn’t for the messy plot the first third of the book.

The first third of Grit I felt like tons of things happen, but it doesn’t go anywhere at all. Despite the great writing, beautiful writing even, the first part just fell completely flat for me. This is such a shame because I think it would have been perfect if the plot had been cleaned up a bit. Between the job, the family, the mystery of the Fourth of July night, the pageant, and the budding romance there’s just too much going on to really enjoy the story. The plot felt too busy. All these different aspects just didn’t seem to click for me. I think the story could’ve done without the pageant bit, and instead delve deeper into some other aspects of the plot.

As for the protagonist, Darcy, I really enjoyed the dynamic she had going on with her sister and cousin. I appreciated how important family was to her, and I think she showed a lot of strength and determination with all that’s going on. But (yes there’s a but, I’m sorry) sometimes I just couldn’t connect with her. I felt bad for her because she didn’t deserve all the shit thrown her way just because of something she did in sophomore year (that circulated), but I found myself liking her less and less near the end of the book.

The writing saved this book for me. Gillian French knows how to use similes to her advantage, that’s for sure, and I liked how she portrayed the people inside the town. The second third of the book was done very well, especially the edge between Shea and Darcy. That edge combined with the sisterly love throughout the story made the story more or less enjoyable for me.

I did not know what to do with that ending. It didn’t work for me. I felt like it wasn’t in line with the rest of the story.

I really hate to say it, since I was really really excited about the premise of the book, but Grit was a bit of a disappointment to me. The plot was divided and just too much. I think a bit of cleaning up could turn this book from ‘okay’ possibly into something really good. The writing, the tension, and the sisterly love saved the story in my opinion, and for now, I’ll settle with saying that Grit was an ‘okay’ read.

 

 

 

two-half-stars

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno | Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno | ReviewFireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Buy on Bol.comBuy on Book Depository
Goodreads

four-stars




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.

Fireworks was and wasn’t what I was expecting. Cryptic sentence to open with, I know, but bear with me. Sometimes you just don’t know if the book you’re reading is going to knock your socks off or turn out not to be your thing at all, and such was the case with Fireworks.

So I’m talking about not knowing what I was going to get, but also that this book was and wasn’t what I expected it to be… That’s confusing. Let me break it down for you. What did I expect? I expected clichés. I mean, being discovered as a pop star, fame, a love interest that is destined to be the next big thing, it all screamed cliché to me. Not just cliché, but cliché in a big, bold, flashing neon sign kinda way. And I gotta admit those clichés were present in Fireworks. What didn’t I expect? For Katie Cotugno to work them so flawlessly into the story that I didn’t mind them at all. They were there, but they weren’t the most important aspects of the story.

Friendship and self-discovery were two of the most important aspects in Fireworks. I loved the protagonist, Dana. She was the kind of friend, had the kind of loyalty to her friends, that you can only admire and respect. Especially because as the story progressed it became clearer and clearer that her best friend, Olivia, was holding her back. Dana had to figure out for herself what she wanted to do with her life and she underwent a big transformation throughout the story.

If anything made Fireworks for me, combined with all things I mentioned before, it was that ending. I love how Katie Cotugno blew away all my preconceived notions of how I expected Fireworks to end in a cliché. That ending was anything but cliché and it was the cherry on top of a very enjoyable story.

If you’re looking for a fun and enjoyable contemporary read with a solid message attached, Fireworks is the answer. It’s a very well-written story with a sweet romance that you won’t be able to resist!

four-stars