cover image Rising Star (The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart #1)

Rising Star (The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart #1)

Michele Kwasniewski. Rand-Smith, $20 paper (268p) ISBN 978-1-950544-16-5

In Santa Clarita, Calif., dark-haired, implied-white Danilynn Marie Truehart, 15, has spent most of her life training for pop stardom, rigorously micromanaged by her avaricious, scheming Texan stage mom and unprotected by her absent father. After successfully getting signed by producer Jenner Redman, Dani is initially riding high. But as the realities of showbiz and sacrifice rear their heads, she begins to crumble under the pressures of fame as a teenage star. Luckily, Dani has the support of boyfriend Sean; sage, brainy sister Geena; and best friend Lauren—all of whom are blond—and, perhaps most endearingly, her “’80s has-been” Black gay manager Martin Fox, who steps in as Dani’s legal guardian. Kwasniewski effectively captures Dani’s inner turmoil as she determines what her future should hold. The protagonist reads a bit older than her stated age, internal monologues skew long, and some plot points are predictable, but Dani’s determination and enthusiasm shine through as Kwasniewski deftly conveys nuanced family dynamics and interpersonal relationships from a teen perspective. This whirlwind series starter effectively encapsulates the melodrama and heart of one teen accomplishing her goals despite the odds. Ages 13–up. (Oct.)

Correction: Though originally reviewed as a self-published book, this title was published traditionally; the text of this review has been updated accordingly.