Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

This was my least favourite Kati Cotugno book (99 Days first, How to Love second), and it was still un-put-downable. How does she do that?


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.


This was my least favourite Kati Cotugno book (99 Days first, How to Love second), and it was still un-put-downable. How does she do that?

First off: Dana is resilient and incredible. She’s the one you want in your corner, and she can do anything she sets her mind to. In fact, she is definitely her own worst enemy. She is too loyal for her own good. And I think one day, she’ll regret her choices, even if she does end up somewhere better than she thought and especially if she ends up stuck in her hometown forever.

Olivia is kind of despicable. You can’t fault her for who she is or what she does, not really. Even the pact was self-preservation for herself, and I think everyone but Dana could see that from a mile away. She has the cunning, drive, and desire — but not the strength. Is it bad that I want to see her crash and burn? I want to see her come home with her tail between her legs, or dropping out due to “fatigue,” or heck, even realizing that she needs Dana by her side. Dana is a way, way better friend to Olivia than the other way around. The privilege is annoying, because she has everything handed to her on a silver platter and has so many supporters behind her, and yet she still has so manyproblems.

Katie Cotugno does know how to write a good love interest, I’ll give you that. Alex is the kind of guy that makes any girl want to swoon, and I wish Dana got to live the high life at least through him — I mean, the Kardashians got famous on less. At the same time, Dana being a realist would probably have been more accurate. Seriously, what are her odds if he ends up huge?

Then again, the sad reality is that getting huge wasn’t a guarantee of fortune for these flash-in-the-pan 90’s pop groups. I’ve read books about the “Hit Factory” before, and it was a brutal time. We got a little insight to this, when Dana talks about coming back with less than she came with. There’s talks of being “the product” and the brutality of the whole industry. In a way, Dana is probably better off chasing a degree of some sort instead. It’s political, it’s sleazy, and it’s ruthless. I’m glad the story depicts both sides of fame, and captures the zeitgeist of the moment so clearly.

As always, Katie Cotugno achieves what she set out to do… but for the first time, this story didn’t strike a chord with me. Perhaps it’s how unrelatable the situations are, causing me to feel some sort of disconnect. In fact, Dana even acknowledges this when talking about how her friends seem disinterested by a reality so far off from their own. I think the problem is that I don’t relate to her other possible reality either — a deadbeat mother, dead end dreams, and a claustrophobic hometown? I’m fortunate enough not to face that kind of reality. This book is probably great for people who can relate. It’s probably great for adults who came-of-age in the 90’s. But something was missing for me.

Related Reading

  • Open Road Summer – Emery Lord
  • Starstruck – Rachel Shukert
  • The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory – John Seabrook
  • Everybody Knows Your Name – Andrea Seigel & Brent Bradshaw
  • For the Record – Charlotte Huang

Rating: 4/5


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