Review: Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hello, Sunshine by Leila HowlandHello, Sunshine by Leila Howland
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book Depository

A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she's running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.

Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

Several years ago, I read Howland’s debut, Nantucket Blue, and I saw glimmers of promise mired in a book filled with girl-hate. With Hello, Sunshine, I’ve got a Howland book I can really love, and that pleases me no end. If you were afraid to give Howland another shot after Nantucket Blue, you should definitely give this one a try. Hello, Sunshine has an engaging voice and adorable ship, so that makes it Christina approved.

First thing you need to know is that the book cover is completely misleading. It makes Hello, Sunshine look like it’s about a spoiled little rich girl who shows up in LA clueless. As if! Becca Harrington does move to LA to try to make an acting career happen, and she is clueless, but she’s also struggling and working hard. Her mom appears to have money, though I suspect they’re pretty solidly middle class, but Becca moves to LA under her own power with years of babysitting money.

Becca didn’t get into college. Even though she applied to eleven different schools. She’s not sure exactly why they all rejected her, but she does know it’s because she wasn’t good enough. Her mother wants her to stay home in Boston, take some classes, and reapply, but Becca wants to try another path; just staying home felt too sad.  The only thing her mom wants to finance is college applications; I also thought it was cool how Howland subtly showed that people can love you but be low level toxic by not supporting you.

It’s really awesome that Howland considers a different possible future. I haven’t read much YA about teens who haven’t gotten into college or who decide that the four year college plan might not be right for them. While I did the whole college thing, I think it’s fantastic for fiction to model various options. Becca makes some bad choices and some good ones, and she grows up a lot and quickly.

Hello, Sunshine is one of those books that’s technically new adult but that gets marketed as YA because it’s not jam-packed with sexy times (though there is sex! View Spoiler »). Becca starts out with this plan of walking in to talent agencies and immediately getting an agent. It…doesn’t pan out. Becca’s naive and unaware of all the catch-22s of Hollywood. However, she’s an optimistic, cheerful person, and she keeps trying and educating herself.

Becca has such a great spirit and attitude. She tries so hard constantly, and she works just as hard to help the friends she makes in her apartment building, Marisol and Raj (halloooooo, ship). It would have been easy for Becca to give in to jealousy when Marisol got gigs and she didn’t, but instead she remains supportive; it seems weird to be proud of her for human decency, but it’s not easy not to succumb to that sort of jealousy. When Becca’s struggling, her friends pull her up, and she does the same for them. They’re a little found family in a grungy apartment building, and they give me feelings.

While there’s definitely a lot of the idealized in Hello, Sunshine, it does convey how hard and confusing trying to make it as an actor is. Becca’s path is still probably waaaaaay easier than it would be for most people, but it’s not as simple as in most of the hollywood/musical star novels (Wildflower comes to mind). Becca gets really lucky, but she also is in debt for most of the book despite constantly waitressing and acting. Given the genre of novel and the need for a happy ending, Howland does a nice job depicting the struggle.

What I did love was that Becca’s big block in all of her relationships turns out to be her own issue. Towards the end, she hits rock bottom, and she feels like she can’t trust anyone. She has to deal with her fear of rejection and own insecurities to be a good friend and to achieve her goals. It’s a bit overt, but I think it’s a great message, and I had all the feels.

Hello, Sunshine surprised me with how adorable and unputdownable it was. It’s a nice departure from most of the Hollywood stories in YA, because they tend to be about fame rather than the hard work to try to get there. Pick this one up for a hard-working, kind, funny heroine and an adorable interracial romance.

Favorite Quote:

“REFRIGERATOR, what are you trying to tell me?” I ask. It’s five days later. It’s also 4 a.m. I’ve been listening to the refrigerator’s cycle of whines and moans for hours now. Since other methods of quieting it have failed, I talk to it. My hand grazes the white door. “I can’t help you unless you tell me what’s wrong.” It sputters. “Fine, be that way.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


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