I wanna dance with you, girl, till the sun goes down
I wanna feel every rush that you feel
I wanna hear every sound when your heart cries out
So sing it with me tonight
Charlie Bloom never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she’s asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band Fire&Lights, she can’t pass up the chance.
Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West, and his boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson. Then, as the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mind-blowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs…
Rating: 3.0 stars.
Charlie Bloom, a talented, aspiring young photographer, is completely normal– at least according to her. However, with a “gentle” push from her best friend, Melissa, she finds herself entangled in the glamorous lives of Fire&Lights, teen pop sensations who have captured the hearts of practically every girl in the nation. (Except for Charlie, of course, because she’s apparently oh-so-different and doesn’t care about silly things like boy bands).
Songs About a Girl will be especially relatable for hardcore fangirls and fanboys, whom the author affectionately labels “groupies”. I especially liked how Russell gave readers a glimpse of celebrity life away from the prying lens of the camera.
It reminded me of how exhausting fame can actually be, with every move and misstep scrutinized by the public eye- and how dangerous, too, with daily death threats and overly aggressive paparazzi. We’re so used to idolizing our favorite singers and actors/actresses that it’s easy for us, as the audience, to remember that they’re only human. Though we might take privacy for granted, most of them view it as a luxury.
“I just want one little piece of me to stay private, y’know? People expect you to give up everything just because you’re famous, but I won’t give them this.”
Charlie also has her own ugly brush with anonymous online harassment, simply because of her association with the famous boy band. I can’t imagine how targeted and vulnerable I would feel if I was suddenly attacked by keyboard warriors on all sides of social media, but that’s exactly what Charlie went through. Russell effectively pointed out that it’s important to remember the person behind the screen, and that you should always, always think before you speak- or, in this case, type.
“I don’t know, Charlie, but this is exactly what losers like that are paid to do. Make people feel crap about themselves. Because that sells.”
Russell also portrays the band, Fire&Lights, as a close-knit family as friendly with each other behind the scenes as they are on the stage. Of course, the band is not without their own fair share of underlying tension. Overall, however, I loved the band’s dynamic- Yuki’s carefree playfulness, Aiden’s sweetness, Olly’s kindness, even Gabriel’s broodiness. Though undeniably cheesy, the kind of friendship he portrays in Fire&Lights is especially relevant to pop culture, as more and more of today’s band members leave to “fly solo”.
“We were racing, explained Aiden, breathlessly, retrieving one of his shoes from a nearby bush. “I nearly beat him this time.”
“The thing our little Irish friend here fails to acknowledge,” explained Yuki, “is that I have the willowy limbs of a gazelle, whereas he…” He considered Aiden for a moment. “He has the athletic prowess of a slightly asthmatic dachshund.”
“Cool your boots, Roberts. It’s your brain I’m attracted to.”
On the other hand, I felt that this book was just very cliche in many ways. Think about it: Charlie, an apparently completely normal person, gets miraculously plucked off of the streets by a former classmate-turned-super-famous-pop-star. And then, obviously, everyone else in the band just ends up loving her. Many of the “coincidences” that occurred seemed like a bit of a stretch to me, definitely to the point of being extremely unrealistic. But then again, this is all part of the magic of YA, and many other readers will probably appreciate this; it’s just a matter of personal taste.
And if we’re still on the topic of cliches, I just have to mention Gabriel West. Call me a downer, but these days, I’m just not having any sort of luck with YA contemporary romances. Like many of his hot predecessors, he is dark, brooding, and damaged, but, like, in a totally hot kind of way.
Even better, this popstar is somehow undeniably attracted to our totally average protagonist darling, and… surprise!… so is she. It’s total insta-love. And then… wow!… by some twist of fate, they realize that they’re practically soulmates.
I can sum up his personality in one word: ANGST. MAJOR ANGST. (I know that’s three words, but let’s overlook that.) Charlie was equally as clueless, and honestly, I spent half the book nursing a burning desire to smack some sense into the both of them. I am left with a sense of deja vu- I feel like I’ve read about Gabriel’s character thousands and thousands of times, and I am, quite frankly, tired of it.
I’m sorry, Gabriel West, I probably would have fawned over you in middle school, but by now, I’m so over the whole Dark Bad Boy Trope, not to mention the Special Snowflake Syndrome. (And remember, and important part of the Special Snowflake Syndrome is that the special snowflake CAN’T realize they’re special! Everyone just loves them for some reason!)
“Truth is, most girls who manage to get backstage, they’re only really interested in one thing. But you… you’re different.”
After reading this, I honestly have no idea what makes Charlie “different”, other than the fact that she’s not drooling obsessively over the teenage band. And even that changes by the end of the book.
One redeeming quality for the romance was the refreshing and pleasantly surprising lack of any major love triangle. I have to admit that I was suspicious at first, but the main love interest is quickly made clear. There’s tension, of course, but nothing too major- I mean, none of these boys square up and fight each other of Charlie. Though two of them do have an arm wrestling competition. Does that count?
However, Russell’s portrayal of Charlie’s BFF, Melissa, was pure gold. This conversation basically sums up their entire friendship:
“If something awful had just happened and you thought the world was going to end… know what I’d do?”
I shook my head.
“I’d fill your bedroom with marshmallows.”
I squinted at her. “What?”
“Your entire room. I’d go out and spend all my money on marshmallows, and I’d fill up your bedroom from floor to ceiling and then we’d just sit around for hours eating and laughing. It’s impossible to be sad when you’re eating marshmallows. That’s a scientific fact.”
Melissa and Charlie were adorbs together, and I would not have minded if Charlie suddenly left her main love interest and realized she was *GASP* in love with Melissa the entire time! I realize now how preposterous that sounds, but a girl can dream, right?
Melissa is undoubtedly not without her flaws, and she makes huge mistakes that drive major rifts between her and Charlie. For some reason, I LIKED that Melissa and Charlie’s friendship wasn’t all smooth sailing, and I thought that it was a genius move on the author’s part to test their loyalty and trust, and, in the process, make their bond even stronger. Regardless, these girls are always there for each other, and that’s ultimately what matters the most.
Songs About a Girl is cute, definitely, and perfect for those who have always dreamed of falling in love with their favorite celebrities, or wistfully wondered what it would be like to be part of a band. It was clear that Russell poured his heart and soul into writing a book about something that he was truly passionate about- music.
To sum it up, check out this book if you’re a fan of: band life! cute friendships! angsty teenage romances! glamorous pop stars!
insta-love– I mean, fate!
“How long, I wondered, could a group of people spend every waking minute together, with tensions riding high, before it all came crashing down around them?
Something, eventually, would have to give.”
ALSO: What kind of ending was that? Was it a cliffhanger or…. yeah, it just left me incredibly confused.
Thank you to Flatiron Books for providing me with the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review.