Under the Lights (Daylight Falls, #2) by Dahlia Adler
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 30th 2015
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.
Before picking this book up, I had been following the author, Dahlia, on Twitter for some time. She was always very outspoken about diversity, especially the inclusion of queer girls in YA and New Adult. I knew I needed to pick up something by her, and once I found out that Under the Lights had a protagonist that was a queer girl of color, I decided this would be the first book of hers I’d pick up.
Under the Lights is technically the second book in the series, but it’s a companion series and you do not need to read the first book to understand this one. You are not missing anything with the first one, if that synopsis doesn’t interest you, and anything of importance is filled in at the beginning of this one. I chose to skip the first book as well.
Before reading this book, I didn’t realize it would be a dual POV. Initially, I was not a fan of that. My main interest was in Vanessa and her story line, and I couldn’t care less about Josh. As time went on and characters developed, I did come to like Josh more, which is saying a lot as he starts out very unlikable. But overall, Vanessa is the protagonist I care about.
The story line was fun. The majority of the characters are stars in a show that sounds very similar to Dawson’s Creek or Gilmore Girls, and it was fun to see “behind the scenes” in a Hollywood environment like that instead of a more glamorous one. It provided just enough of a backdrop for the story, while not ruling the story.
I found the relationships to be the strongest element of the story. Vanessa is finding herself, without it being the overly angsty mess that it could have been. Any sexual activity is discussed maturely by the characters, and enthusiastic consent is a HUGE part of that narrative, which I appreciate seeing. It’s not something I see often, if at all, in other YA contemporaries.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and it was an excellent gateway into Dahlia’s other work. She has become an auto-buy author for me, and I look forward to working my way through her backlist, as well as any future releases of hers.