PURCHASE:Amazon | Book Depository
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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Where has this book been all my life? Why is this not the standard of New Adult?!
I don’t even know where to start. But one thing is for sure: I am thoroughly, thoroughly impressed.
This book has got to have two of the most realistically-written characters I have ever read in the form of douchebag Joshua Chester (who I can’t help but like) and indecisive Vanessa Park (who I can’t help but also like). Having read the author’s Last Will and Testament, I knew she had a knack for creating characters with amazing and strong personalities and make that shine in their narration, but good lord, Adler seriously upped her game here. It was amazing how personal this book felt, how it intimately peeked into the lives of two people who had big demons to face in an industry that wanted and expected so much from them.
The way they were written here just made them so, so relatable. We know that the kind of life they lead is something a lot of us have envied once or twice – where you are recognized and validated by the work you do, where you can throw parties at a whim, where you have legions of fans looking up to you and people wanting a piece of you – and each time we always think, “Ah, these people are above us. They’re unreachable.” I’m guilty of that. I look up to a lot of people who are known in their respective fields and oftentimes think they lead perfect lives and are not plagued by the problems we peasants constantly have to face – be it social, financial, political, economical. I keep thinking they are somehow immune to the ills of the world.
This book takes all of that and throws them out the window. For a lack of a better term, it “humanized” them. Hollywood/TV stars aren’t always as certain in their lives as we think they are. They also feel insecurity and loneliness despite all the starlight and glamour. They also feel pressured and they suffer from and fight against racism and sexism, too. And I loved every page of it. This book made them so attainable now in an emotional level.
Like take Joshua, for example. He’s the kind of TV actor douchebag we are all familiar with – the one who surrounds himself with parties, booze, women, swag, and sex – but despite all the red flags, his insecurity, loneliness, his need to be independent and find his own path are all something every one of us can easily identify with. I couldn’t even hate the dude. I just enjoyed his narration so much (and did I mention how Adler killed it? You’d think she lived a Joshua in a previous life or something!) to the point that there were times I was laughing so much. He’s endearing despite his flaws, and it’s a great feat if a writer can make an unsympathetic character rootable.
And then, there’s Vanessa. Sarcastic, snarky Vanessa Park who is the star of a popular show and yet feels so trapped by her own fame, pressuring her to be someone she’s not sure she wants to be. I loved this girl so much and how Adler wrote her characterization and her development. Like Joshua, she felt so real and so authentic; I never had a problem visualizing her and feeling her emotions in mine. Meeting Bri, her publicist’s intern and daughter, opened a lot of possibilities for her that she never thought was possible, and I loved how her newfound feelings for a fellow female made her realize who she wanted to be.
And at the same time, I loved how conflicted she was, and how such changes made her feel scared because that’s an experience everybody goes through. When we’re so used to something, anything new and uncertain will always feel scary. Being someone who lived in the countryside for 16 years, I’ve always wanted to study in a prestigious top university in Manila, a place so far and so different from the home I’ve known all my life, but when I was at that moment where submitting a single form would change everything, I was consumed with fear and confusion and indecisiveness. I remember crying, and asking God what to do, wondering over and over again if this was what I really wanted (even though it really was, but the mind plays its tricks on you just like that). I remember not coming back to that university for days because I just didn’t know if it was better to go out of my comfort zone (even though deep inside this was what anyone would say) or stay where I was comfortable even if I knew I’d feel limited. It was a strenous journey of discernment that took several internal pep talks and encouragement from other people.
And this was what I saw in Vanessa. In a way, she knew what she wanted, but she was unsure if it was right for her. She didn’t jump into her newfound feelings with a confidence and resolve that magically appeared – she was in a constant battle with herself and it was beautiful seeing the gradual changes that eventually blossomed like a flower in full bloom.
This is the kind of character development I want. This is kind of romance I yearn for – a love that grows alongside you, a love that is not only for others, but also for oneself. A love that doesn’t change you, but makes you want to change, forcing you to question yourself in order to become a better, happier person.
Under the Lights is a beautiful, beautiful book and I implore everyone to get it. It’s a refreshing story in the New Adult demographic that not only tackles issues relevant to our society, but also speaks to that part of us who are as confused and as indecisive and unsure, whether it be about our sexuality or our path in life, cheering us on to find our own greener pastures.
About the Author
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!
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