Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th 2017
Pages: 336
Format:ARC, eARC
Source:ALAMW, Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

Random story time! This was going to be part of my April Reviews in a Minute (Part 1), but then I ummm got carried away with the ’90s band GIFs and realized that it needed to be its own post. Because how can you not give ’90s band GIFs their own post? The answer is you cannot. Obviously.


This one gave me a pretty serious case of the sads. I really liked the author’s last book, 99 Days, and was therefore super eager to get my hands on this one. Plus, as a child of the 90s, I was psyched! The characters in this book were a bit older than I was then (yes, yes, someone somewhere is older than me) so I expected lots of 90s shenanigans. I got… not much. There were a few references, mostly musically related, but for the most part, it felt like a contemporary novel set today, just with fewer iPhones.

But beyond that, let’s talk about the story itself. So, as we know from reading the blurb (and since I trust your reading skills, I won’t rehash too much), Dana has been chosen alongside her bestie Olivia to try out for a girl band (think: Spice Girls). Now this to me was a little hard to swallow because out of all the young females the country/world, four are chosen and these two best friends happen to be half of them? Okay then.

Of course, there is a boy band that is already somewhat established (think: NSYNC) who is staying at the same hotel complex. And this dude named Alex is hitting on Dana, but ::gasp:: Olivia had the hots for him once in eighth grade (that is paraphrasing, I don’t remember when it was). So Dana tries to be all “Girl Power!” and you know, leave him alone because her best friend saw him first. But alas….

So she goes and sees him in random shady places, as you do. And things are… tense with the girls. I could look up the other two girls’ names but it’s unimportant. One of them is a typical “mean girl” and the other is just… there. But they aren’t meshing well, they either fight or don’t speak, and so Dana starts pulling away because she is shadily seeing Justin Timberlake Alex. And he doesn’t want to play games.

So this is kind of how the story goes: Dana trying to decide if she really wants to be a singer/performer, Dana fighting with the other girls, Dana wondering if she’s “good enough”, and then Dana and Alex’s relationship situation. I just didn’t feel it, to be perfectly honest. Also I have no idea what was so special about her that she was picked to begin with, so that led to a certain level of disbelief. Plus, I didn’t like how Dana didn’t seem to care about the career half the time, and then wondered why everyone was pissed at her.

I liked Alex as a character, but the others? I could have lived without all of them. The adults were all irresponsible and really didn’t care about the girls’ welfare, which I am sure is accurate to a degree, but you’d think their families would have intervened a bit. Not Dana’s, because her mom was the worst (again, this seemed quite trope-y, add an absent mom into the mix of unbelievably), but surely Olivia’s?

Dana did grow a bit throughout the course of the book, which was a plus. She ended up starting to realize what it was she wanted, and applied herself to her goal, which was admirable. Until some stuff happened at the end that left me like “wait- what now?” Spoiler is coming so do not read if you haven’t read the book.

Are you going to listen if The Spice Girls tell you instead of me?

I always tell you, you never listen. Hrmph. View Spoiler »

Bottom Line: 

Honestly, I just didn’t feel that invested in any of the characters, which made me kind of apathetic. Dana and I just didn’t click, and I was mad at most of the characters for most of the book.  I definitely wanted a more 90s vibe, too. I did enjoy some of the aspects of the romance, and that Dana did have some growth. But I think a lot of people seemed to enjoy this, so I may be the black sheep here!

Were you old enough to remember the 1990s? If so, did you enjoy boy bands/girl bands? I secretly enjoyed The Spice Girls, but I never could get into boy bands at all. 

Posted April 15, 2017 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 20 Comments

20 responses to “Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

  1. What really sucks is when you get a 90’s book or whatever and there are like, no real connections to the era other than musical references. But I think it’s hard to do too. Anyway great review, that cover makes it look like a fun read, sorry it didn’t quite hold up. Unlikeable characters are hard to get past and it sounds like Dana is just so-so. Plausibility issues too sounds like. And yay for bad/ missing parents- the tropeth live on.

    Not a fan of bad boys, although Spice Girls…

    “So tell me what you want. What you really really want” oh em gee that song will now be in my head… you had to do that didn’t ya? :):):)

    • You have NO IDEA how badly these songs have been stuck in my head since starting this post. For about a week, all I have been doing is humming awful 90s songs from shitty bands. The struggle is real, and I am sorry for passing it along 😉

      I felt like there could have just been more of a 90s vibe in general? Idk- like, it was set in 1997 which was basically the dawn of the internet- at least, everyday people HAVING the internet, you know? And it was a relatively peaceful time, the only drama was like, Bill and Monica hahah. Hair, clothes, etc. But I probably could have overlooked that if I cared at ALL about the characters. They were just pissing me off, tbh. 😂

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it that much! It sounds reallly fun, but it seems too much drama even for me… I’m born in the late 90’s so I didn’t really experience the decade, but I expect a lot of reference in this book and it seems like there aren’t much… I hope your next read will be better, Shannon!

  3. I mean, I don’t even remember what I ate for lunch, so even though I was born in ’94…I GOT NOTHING, SHANNON. NOTHING AT ALL. I’ll just trust you on your ’90s enthusiasm.😂😂
    Honestly the characters sound a bit frustrating haha. And I read the spoiler because I’M WEAK and gooooosh, that sounds like would’ve been really frustrating to read their poor decision making?!?? What even with these backstabbing girls.
    Sorry it was a disappointment for you. 😭😭

  4. Sam

    I graduated high school in 1990, so yeah, I remember the 90s fondly. I was more into grunge than the whole boy band thing though. Two stars? I honestly think my DNFs would have earned 1-2 if I had rated.

  5. Um I not so secretly loved the Spice Girls. Like went to see the movie liked the Spice Girls. So it saddens me deeply to hear this book is not as 90’s as I would have hoped. I loved her last book to and was pumped for this one. I mean I am still pumped just a little less you know. Loved the gifs lady!! Great review!

  6. I generally liked this one, but I totally agree about the 90s nostalgia — it was really lacking for me! I barely remembered that it took place then as I was reading, which sucks because I was looking forward to those feels.

  7. Your 90s girl/boy band game is on point — I think they might be more interesting than the book itself, though the premise did sound sooo cool!

  8. I was totally excited for this book but totally hesitant too because I’ve read other books by Cotugno and both liked and disliked them and I seriously think this might have been the case with this one. First of all, how is it not filled with 90s references? That should have been the main part of this book, the awesome 90s-ness of it. What a betrayal! ANd then the storyline itself just sounds meh. Like, I could see myself getting drawn and speeding right through reading… but I really don’t want to. It just isn’t special and interesting and the 90s angle could have made me enjoy that touch more but even that wasn’t done well. Maybe next time. At least I have 90s girl/boy band gifs to get me through.

  9. Oh man, this is such an awesome review 😀 truly made me laugh. Those GIFs as well! I can’t believe you found ones that fit so well xD

    Also. I’m totally a 90s kid and Spice Girls were totally my favorite band for years. Sooo nostalgic! Oh my gosh.

    Too bad about the book though. The blurb sounded so promising.

  10. OMG. This is too funny because the first thing I read this morning as I was getting ready for work… I mean procrastinating was an article about all the weird things we were obsessed with in the 90s. We liked some weird toys, so I guess I can forgive the kids at school for those fidget spinners.

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve read Katie in the past and loved her, so I’m hoping this doesn’t disappoint me. I just don’t know when I’ll be able to get to it.

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