I love books about Hollywood and I need more books with sexual and racial diversity, so this book was an obvious slam dunk for me. I had a few minor issues with it, but that had more to do with my own expectations than what the book brought to the table, because this book was a much-needed addition to our We Need Diverse Books era.
< A F/F Romance! >
If you’ve heard about this book before, it’s probably because it has a lesbian relationship at its forefront (well, it’s actually a lesbian-bisexual relationship, which is an important distinction because bisexuals aren’t simply gay some of the time and straight the rest of the time, but that’s a discussion for another day and I only said it so that I simplified things, which obviously didn’t work out well – the point is, the protagonist is a lesbian). One thing I didn’t know ahead of time, though, was that protagonist Vanessa didn’t know she was gay – she knew that her relationship with a fellow celebrity was fake and that she didn’t really have feelings for him, and that she had never really been interested in boys, but she assumed she simply hadn’t met the right boy yet, because of course she’s straight, how could she not assume that when she grew up in such a heteronormative society? There’s nothing wrong with her questioning and figuring things out, but it surprised me because I hadn’t expected so much romantic angst due to her questioning and such – so, just warning you. If I had known that going in, I think I could have enjoyed Vanessa’s journey toward understanding herself in multiple ways, including her sexuality, but oh well, too late now, and it obviously didn’t ruin my feelings toward this book.
< An Asian Actress! >
We get books about Asian protagonists and books about lesbians, but we don’t get nearly enough books that combine the two. As an actress, Vanessa also has to deal with a different kind of racism than the average “regular” citizen (although she gets that stuff too). She knows that she has to work twice as hard because she’s a teenage girl in an industry that focuses on her appearances and sexuality, but she also has to deal with the fact that Asian actors and actresses are almost always stuck in the “minority” role. She was lucky enough to get a role that was originally written for a white actress – she was so impressive that the show runners actually forgot about race and cast her – but that doesn’t mean that she automatically gets all the roles, and she still has to struggle as an Asian actress in an industry where she’s Asian first and a talented actress second. To be honest, though, I would have liked to get some more behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama, but that’s just because that’s the type of stuff I like to read when it comes to Hollywood-set books.
< Teenagers Thinking About College! >
Sure, Vanessa prefered to not think about college, especially since she didn’t think she was very smart, but just the fact that it was acknowledged was pretty great. Vanessa’s parents always considered acting to be a hobby, despite how famous Vanessa has become, so they’ve always pushed college on her, so not only did Vanessa feel it was the wrong place for her, but she also felt like she was being unfairly pushed into it by parents who didn’t pay attention to her as a person. The first book in this series had more to do with college since Allie, the protagonist of that book and Vanessa’s best friend, was trying to make it to college, but just the fact that college was a subject at all, big or little, was a nice change from YA books that seem content to pretend that high school really is all there is.
< In Conclusion! >
This book wasn’t perfect, mainly because I expected a F/F romance throughout the book and not as much questioning drama, but it was a great story from beginning to end, one that reminded us about the importance of intersectionality and diversity while also just being a story about a girl figuring out who she is. Oh, and there’s also a male POV, Josh, but I kind of forgot about him in this review because this is, first and foremost, Vanessa’s story.
Title: Under the Lights
Position: Book Two in the Daylight Falls series
Author: Dahlia Adler
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.