Note: I received a digital copy of this title through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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…
After the double dose of the highs and lows of fame in this and my last posted review, I now feel like I need to go on a reading retreat with a book that’s either set in the Antarctic or at a time when the words ‘social’ and ‘media’ were blissfully unaware of each other.
Having read the latest in the Bodyguard series, Target, Chris Russell’s YA debut Songs About a Girl takes the reader on another rollercoaster tour, this time with fictional boyband Fire & Lights. The band comes manufactured from a UK talent show, presided over by ruthless mogul, Barry King, who has been known to sack a fellow judge or two live on air. The band features a cheeky chappy Irish teen and a troubled heart-throb, among others. Sound familiar?
Russell makes no apologies for the parallels to reality, in fact drawing on his time as a ghost writer for a One Direction fan club to great effect in the never-ending party world of Fire & Lights. Charlie finds herself catapulted into this world, along the way becoming more involved with the contrasting characters of Olly Samson and Gabriel West. Charlie consciously eschews the limelight however, allowing her photography to be used only if her name is not attached.
Charlie then gets the full experience of the potential of social media, as she gets to see her name in lights, both positively and negatively.
Charlie’s position as the outsider in the story is intriguing. She begins as a person who is aware of, but not in any way interested in, Fire&Lights, and as she becomes more involved with the band, she is able to look out into a gossip-obsessed world. It’s a great tool in exposing the pervasiveness of the celebrity life, and the difficulty to escape it at times, especially for the kids in Fire&Lights when they start to feel the pressure from media.
Chris Russell keeps you hooked as the plot becomes more claustrophobic for Charlie, between being victimised at school, lying to her single parent Dad, keeping up with Fire&Lights, and somewhere in there, trying to develop her passion for photography.
There is plenty of suspense in the overhanging mystery of the narrative also, and this being the first in a trilogy, there are enough strands left dangling to keep the reader asking questions beyond the final chapter.