by Jen Wilde
Published on May 22, 2018 by Swoon Reads
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde's quirky and utterly relatable novel.
As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.
Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.
Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?
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Of the YA contemporaries I’ve read over the years, The Brightsiders definitely wasn’t the worst but it also wasn’t really for me.
Our protagonist, Emmy, is a teenage rockstar trying to find her place in the world. From dealing with parental abuse and neglect, to relationship woes, she sees it all. . . and that was just a bit too much drama for me.
BUT let’s start off with the good stuff. Wilde knows how to create a diverse cast and write it well. Not only does this book feature a bisexual lead, but the rest of the cast held its own. There was nonbinary, genderqueer, and additional bi rep throughout and it’s done so seamlessly. This is what it looks like when diversity is normalized and I loved it! Nothing is assumed, even in the prose of the story, and I can’t say I’ve ever read a book that is so. . . aware. It was beautiful.
And that’s where I leave off because beyond that, nothing really stood out. I ended up finishing The Brightsiders with a “I think I just read a book?” feeling. Let me be clear, it’s not a bad book. But it wasn’t memorable for me either. I read it. I finished it. I moved on.
I had issues with the writing mostly. This book is pretty trope-heavy which isn’t a bad thing when done well but I found the writing a bit all over the place. Which fit with the emotional state of Emmy for most of the book, I suppose, but wasn’t as fun to read. And there were parts of the world that I felt I, as the reader, was supposed to just accept rather than understand so I wasn’t fully buying into it.
And the drama constantly felt like it was TOO much. Everything was dramatic, everything was a big deal, and maybe that has less to do with the story and more to do with my age vs the age this book is intended for? So I can’t really say that it was a flaw of the book. Just not my cup of tea. Nor was the heavy romance focus. I love romances. A lot, actually, but I didn’t really care enough about any of the characters enough to invest in their personal lives.
Diversity aside, I think this was a solid case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” YA contemporaries are always hit-or-miss (and more often a total miss) for me so I’m bummed but not surprised.