336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062418272.
Gr 8 Up—Growing up in late 1990s Georgia, 17-year-olds Olivia and Dana have been inseparable best friends since childhood. Dana, with an incompetent mother, views Olivia's mom as a welcome surrogate. Ashamed of her ho-hum grades, Dana feels permanently stuck in their ordinary small town. Then, performance-trained Olivia's hope for pop stardom materializes when she heads to Orlando, FL, to audition for a new girl group—with Dana in tow for moral support. Surprisingly, pretty Dana is prompted to audition, too, despite her lack of preparation, and both she and Olivia are selected for a four-girl group. As grueling practices ensue and Dana struggles to progress, she is subjected to mean girl nastiness; she suspects Olivia of anorexic behavior; and boy band member Alex, Olivia's crush, falls for Dana. Dana's believable and likable first-person character, attempting to overcome self-doubt, comfortably meshes with encouraging, sweet, almost-too-good-to-be-true Alex as they embark on a swoon-worthy relationship leading to meaningful, though not graphic, first-time sex. However, Olivia is not as convincing as the sisterly pal who ultimately sells out their friendship for fame, though this plot point makes the inevitable bittersweet ending easier to swallow. Readers still drawn to Rachel Cohn's Pop Princess may overlook the more dated aspects of the book as they discern relatable truths woven into this fast-paced drama about the significance of authentic friendship and romance.
VERDICT A general purchase for YA collections, especially those with teens interested in recent historical fiction.

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