Under the Lights (Daylight Falls #2)
by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Genre: GLBT, Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary
Rate: 4 stars
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.
It's not going to surprise anyone who follows her on Twitter or has read her other two books that Dahlia Adler can write. She has, in all three of the books I've read now, the perfect blend of humor and heartache to connect readers to the characters. I always think the sign of a truly talented writer is their ability to make you care for a character you strongly dislike. Even more impressive, is an author's ability to have the character (Josh) retain many of the qualities that annoy you, even while clearly showing growth. Dahlia Adler understands what it means for a character to evolve and be transformed without having to become someone entirely new.
Perhaps this is a life lesson in addition to good writing. We grow, we change, we become different versions of who we are. The people who matter, the people who truly care, accept those changes even when we're not entirely sure which version of ourselves is the truth. Sometimes the truth gets buried behind fear of how people will react. In alternating chapters, both main characters face this realization.
Vanessa and Josh are both at a crossroads in their lives, as most 18-20 year old people should be. Though they both have different reasons, they are on a similar journey-- a journey we're all familiar with-- the quest for happiness and fulfillment. I'm not sure which character was more surprised by the realization of what would lead to said happiness, but it was fun to watch them get there.
Under the Lights is an honest and blunt look at how hard it can be to make decisions that you know will forever alter the next stage of your life. What I loved most about the relationship between Vanessa and Bri was how Dahlia showed regardless of the gender dynamics: boy-girl, girl-girl....it doesn't matter-- love feels like love. It's scary and exciting and sometimes a bit traumatizing, but with the right person, it's worth the risk.
One of my favorite parts of Josh's relationship with Vanessa was when he realized he could care for a girl without sleeping with her-- other than Ally. When we love someone, we want the best for them and seeing Josh want that for Vanessa was the biggest proof of his character's growth.
Readers who loved Ally and Liam (like me) will be pleased to see them in Under the Lights. Another authentic story arc: how we can love our friends and envy them a little at the same time. Because we're human. And that's what makes readers love Adler's characters-- they're human. They're real and flawed, just like us and it makes us think if they can find their "Hollywood ending", so can we. Sometimes the happily ever after is a surprise, even to the person searching for it.
It's difficult for a writer to put out a sequel to a well-loved book because it ups the pressure of not 'letting readers down'. I can assure you, because I was lucky enough to read it early, this won't be the case with Under the Lights.
Who would I cast in the movie production of under the lights?
want some music with that?
The songs playing in my mind during scenes of this book do not have a specific order but they have some common themes: standing up for yourself, trusting yourself, relationships, reaching for something new, and the angsty-uncertainty that comes with love and life decisions.
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I'm an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I blog at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and the Barnes & Noble book blog. I also write contemporary YA (The Daylight Falls duology) and NA (The Radleigh University series). Rec-ing books is approximately my favorite thing in the universe, with macarons being a close second. Come say hi on Twitter, where I'm @MissDahlELama!