Behind the Scenes
by Dahlia Adler
Original Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Length: 328 pages
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
View at the Traffic light:
High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.
Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.
When I think “Hollywood” and “YA”, my immediate impression is not terribly favorable. However, I haven’t actually experienced that many books set around Hollywood to really have an inform opinion, so I tried to go into Behind the Scenes with an open mind–and it ended up being a pretty great read.
Behind the Scenes follows main character Ally. Ally’s on the cusp of the Hollywood life, thanks to her best friend, Vanessa. Ally wants no part in the glamor & gossip of the movies, but when Vanessa finds herself being cast as a lead of a new teen TV show, Ally gets more of a taste of Hollywood than she ever thought she would, especially when she comes on to the set as Vanessa’s personal assistant. It’s there that she meets Vanessa’s coworker, Liam, and they quickly strike up a romance.
Behind the Scenes focuses mainly on the romance, which was great, but what I liked even more were the things that added depth to the story. The romance was fun(and I’ll get to that in a minute), but Behind the Scenes would have just been a good, but not memorable, book if that’s all there was. Ally’s father has cancer, and it’s affecting her life in a big way. Her family has spent so much on hospital bills she feels selfish for going off to an expensive college after high school, and she’s doing her best to make as much money as possible(which is how she becomes Vanessa’s assistant). This story line added some sadness to Behind the Scenes, but several of the sweetest moments came from it too. The relationship between Ally and her dad, while not on the page that much, was heart warming. Ally’s parents aren’t absent parents, but they’re not that present, either, which made the scenes between Ally and her dad even better.
The exploration of Hollywood and the movies was also really intriguing. Just about the time that Ally and Liam start to get potentially serious, the three of them learn that the network wants Vanessa and Liam to pretend to date to drum of interest. This, out of all the story lines, made me the most nervous. I was afraid it would be played for cheap conflict and an easy way to keep Ally and Liam separated. Certainly, conflict *does* arrive because of this(which comes as no surprise), but it’s handled with care and thorough. It’s not just the fake dating that has Ally wondering if this is what she wants–the closer she gets to Liam, the more she realizes what that might entail for her.
Ally takes things pretty seriously, which immediately endeared me to her. Like any good main character, she makes some not-so-smart decisions, but she’s not afraid to think things through. She’s aware just exactly what Liam’s position in the spotlight means, and how it might affect her. She realizes that her dad’s hospital bills might have consequences for her future, so she snaps to work immediately to get things done.
Of course, the romance between Liam and Ally was the focus for most of Behind the Scenes. Initially, I wasn’t too sure how I felt about their chemistry. I liked Liam, and I liked Ally, but I wasn’t sure if I liked them together. It was obvious why Ally was attracted to Liam, but I was a bit confused as why Liam was so attracted to Ally right away, but as I began to discover the characters more, it made sense. Liam often hates everything to do with his job–the fame, the spotlight, the fact he gets things just because he’s attractive. It would make sense then that he would be drawn to someone who had no interest in the whole ordeal other than supporting her friend.
And the romance between Liam and Ally becomes positively swoon-worthy at times. There’s an intensity to their relationship that feels unique–it’s passionate, but in a quiet, almost subdued way. It’s a great contrast to the glitz and glamor of the world Liam normally inhabits. It starts mainly as them just liking to be around each other, but it moves into a place where they really get to know each other, and it’s a sweet and yet passionate relationship.
I don’t think Behind the Scenes made me reconsider my stance on Hollywood stories as a whole, but I did enjoy this one. It’s sweet and charming. It took a bit to get my interest but by 25% I was hooked.
Behind the Scenes was a delightful surprise. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and I’m glad for that. There were so many good aspects in this book–the family dynamics(though I would have liked to seen just a little bit more of them), the romance, and the friendship. The conflict could have come off as cheesy and convoluted but I thought for the most part it avoided that problem, and the end result was a highly enjoyable read. 4/5 cupcakes.