Rising Star is one of those books that pulls you in and keeps you mesmerized. Michele Kwasniewski does a brilliant job of bringing Dani to life. The entire story brought back so many memories for me. My first thought was of my Sweet Valley High books from middle school, but the nostalgia is in nearly every word.

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  • Title: Rising Star: The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart (Book 1)
  • Author: Michele Kwasniewski
  • Publisher: Rand-Smith LLC on October 20, 2020
  • Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages: 268
  • Formats Available: Paperback, Audiobook, & Digital
  • Rating: 5/5

Trigger Warnings: Emotional Abuse

Many thanks to Michele Kwasniewski for providing me with a paperback copy of Rising Star with a request for an honest review.

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About 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.

Blurb Provided by the Author for Review Purposes

My Review of Rising Star

Dani Trueheart is no average 15-year-old. She sings, dances, and tries to fit in at her local high school. After all Dani’s years of hard work, she may get her big break. Her coach, Martin, lands her an audition with a big-time record producer who can make all her dreams come true. But, there is a price to pay for this opportunity, and Dani can’t decide if she wants to pay it. Regardless of what she decides, her life is about to change forever. Will she follow her ambition, or will she choose to give it all up to be a normal teenager?

Dani’s character took me back in time, but the entire book brings that nostalgia front and center. Martin is an 80s boy band has been. I grew up in the 80s, and groups like Boys to Men and New Kids on the Block ruled radio and television. I was part of the MTV generation. Every single thing Martin talked about in this book made me feel like I knew him. He could have been any one of the groups I grew up with. It is as if Michele pulled Martin directly out of Teen Beat.

The only way I know how to explain how this book affected me is to say that the experience was surreal. Michele effectively brings 80s MTV to this millennium’s American Idol. This mesh of generations brought my teen life and my mom life into a weird parallel timeline. How can I simultaneously feel like I’m 14 and 40? See what I mean about surreal?

I will now drag myself out of the time warp and tell you more about the actual book. You may not know, but after talking with Michele when she first contacted me about Rising Star, I learned that she worked in reality television for a time. Now that I’ve read it, I can say it has a reality show vibe, but with so much more depth. We get to see how Dani’s mother pushes her and tries to live vicariously through her accomplishments. Martin sees how toxic Dani’s mother is and goes to great lengths to protect the teenager. Dani is mature and strong for a 15-year-old yet has a vulnerable spirit.

The California setting adds fuel to the reality effect. The boot camp house in Mailbu is the kind of place that everyone expects to find in the music industry. The setting feels as real as the characters, and that is an amazing feat. I adored Dani and company. I wish I could spend just a day with these characters. It would be so much fun to hang out with them all.

I award Rising Star a full 5 out of 5 stars. The way this novel sucked me in was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and I am excited to read the next book in the Dani Trueheart series. I recommend this book to all those teens and tweens out there who have grown up with reality tv culture. There is a lot to love for grown-ups too.

About the Author – Michele Kwasniewski

After graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Technical Theater, Michele Kwasniewski spent over fifteen years in film and television production. She worked as a set production assistant on movies such as Independence Day, Face/Off, Primal Fear, and Evita and as a production coordinator/manager on television shows including Big Brother and Adoption Story.

She is also a proud member of the Producers Guild of America. Michele’s colorful experiences in the industry inspired her to write The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart series. Michele lives in San Clemente, California with her husband, their son, and a disobedient dachshund. Burning Bright is her second novel.

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  1. Amazing review! I like that the author has experience with TV, I’m sure it gave this book a more authentic feel.

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