Michele Kwasniewski, author
In the first book in THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series, RISING STAR, fifteen-year-old Dani Truehart is living a life that is not quite her own. Driven by her mother's desire for fame and fortune, she has spent her childhood dutifully training for a career as a pop star. On the brink of discovery, doubts begin to creep into Dani's mind as she questions her own desire for fame, and she wonders whether she can trust the motivations of the adults who are driving her forward. Following a brilliant audition arranged by her vocal/dance coach and former '80s pop icon Martin Fox, Dani is thrown full-force into the music industry. She leaves her friends, family and scheming mother behind to move with Martin, who has become her legal guardian, into the Malibu compound of her new manager, Jenner Redman. Jenner, the former swindling manager of Martin's boy band, leverages what's left of his depleted fortune to launch Dani's career. Isolated from her life at home and trying to stay apace with her demanding schedule, Dani struggles to keep in touch with those she loves, connect to her withholding mother and find her voice as an artist. With Martin and Jenner at odds over their rocky past and finding herself unprepared to handle the pressures of her future singing career, Dani's debut album and future stardom are at risk of falling apart.
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.