Dahlia Adler’s Under the Lights is set to release on June 30th, and it’s a must-read for contemporary fans who are looking for something a little different.
I should note that I did not read the first Daylight Falls novel, Behind the Scenes, but I had no trouble at all following the plot or feeling a connection to the characters. I do plan on reading the first novel, because I’d love some more time with Ally, and Liam, and Vanessa.
Where Behind the Scenes follows Ally and Liam’s story, Under the Lights focuses more on Hollywood bad boy Josh Chester and TV actress Vanessa Park (Ally’s best friend). The chapters alternate between Josh’s and Vanessa’s points of view. Their voices were distinct, and their chapters played off very well against each other.
Josh is sarcastic, too handsome for his own good, and incredibly spoiled. When his mother threatens to take his beach house away from him unless he signs up to be on her new reality show, Josh must reevaluate his life choices and determine what’s really “worth it.”
Vanessa Park has a role on the popular teen show, Daylight Falls, but the cards are stacked against her as far as Hollywood’s concerned: she is an Asian American actor, and starring roles are often limited for women of color. Vanessa, like Josh, also struggles with her parents’ wishes; they want her to give up her dreams of being an actor and prepare for a more “stable” future.
Although Josh and Vanessa become close after Ally, their common link, leaves to go to school in New York City, I should mention right away that this is not a male/female romance-centric novel. In fact, you can tell from the cover: this is a F/F love story!
How exciting is that? Adler has given a main character role to a character who so often is only supporting, and as a reader I was truly able to understand the struggles Vanessa goes through in the course of the novel.
The romance aspect is incredibly sweet and sexy, but also very believable. So often in romantic plots, I feel like I have to suspend my disbelief in order to accept that certain characters can “defy the odds” and be together.. But these characters? They’re meant to be. I sort of wish they were real people, so I could fangirl over their “Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us!” paparazzi shots in the gossip magazines.
The dynamic between Josh and Vanessa is great, too; they have the great kind of sarcastic, bitchy banter that ultimately makes for a killer friendship. It’s nice to see how these characters change as individuals as the story moves forward, but it’s also nice to see how they change together, too.
Under the Lights is very much a book about identity and making choices. Whether it’s dealing with race, or sexuality, or general coming-of-age feelings, Adler presents each facet of the puzzle that is growing up with grace. Under the Lights is a celebration of the underdog, and it’s exciting to see under-represented characters stealing the spotlight.