Open Road Summer
by Emory Lord
Expected Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Length: 342 pages
Obtained Via: I received an electronic advanced reader’s copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.
Open Road Summer is a case study that hype can sometimes work. I probably would have passed over Open Road Summer initially, but so many bloggers and readers started talking about it that I decided to give it a try, and I absolutely loved it. We’re talking positively adored here. I swooned, I cried, I giggled, I smiled, and at the end I finished Open Road Summer with a contented sigh.
Open Road Summer has everything going for it: a swoon-worthy romantic interest, a super strong friendship(the kind that unfortunately uncommon in YA), and a delightful road-trip vibe. Of course, this is a road trip like you’ve never road tripped before: Sleek tour buses, sold out concerts every few nights, and frequent media crises. The fame and glamor wasn’t the biggest piece of Open Road Summer, but of course it’s a large part of Lilah Montgomery’s–or as Reagan knows her, Dee–life, so it crops up from time to time. It was really intriguing to see into sort of the media process, and how much Dee’s reputation needed to be “managed”, even though she hasn’t done anything actually scandalous.
It’s after one of these supposed scandals that Matt Finch enters the picture. Part of a former family band, he’s released a single solo album and been quiet since then. Dee’s record label engineers for Matt to be on the tour so that fans can speculate that perhaps Dee and Matt are a couple in a way to make everyone forget to original scandal. Watching this band of characters on the road together was absolutely fantastic! Dee, Reagan, and Matt are all so different and perhaps not three people you would assume would be friends, but they fit together easily.
I liked Reagan from the beginning, even though she’s not always likable. She’s quick to judge, and she doesn’t always “learn her lessons” like we so often say characters do. But she’s changing, and she’s in charge of her own behavior, and I admire her tenacity. And she is absolutely amazing friend, which is by far the highlight of Open Road Summer. Don’t get me wrong, the romance, setting, all of that was great. But the friendship in Open Road Summer? Phenomenal. I haven’t been so “Hooray, friendship!” in a book since I read Smart Girls Get What They Want. Dee is your sweet, girl next door. Reagan is the girl with bite and a suitcase and emotional baggage, but they don’t let anything stand in the way of their friendship. They are too very different girls who were originally united by just being in the right place at the right time but they let their friendship become so much deeper than that.
Matt Finch is is such a delightful love interest. At first, it seems like he’s just your average boy-next-door who used to be famous but faded into mostly obscurity, but then he gives these glimpses of being absolutely not what you expect. That’s part of why Reagan is so initially drawn to him and I totally get it! Watching their friendship bloom into something more is wonderful. And make no mistake, while the romance deepens in Open Road Summer rather quickly, there is absolutely a foundation of friendship their first.
While Open Road Summer is mostly a lighter fare, the book doesn’t shy away from discussing some more tricky topics. Matt’s mother died before the opening of the book and he’s still grieving. Reagan’s made some bad choices in her past that she’s still healing from, and the two of them openly discuss these issues a few times. It’s not a dark contemporary at all, but a few of these conversations get dark just by the nature of the topic. I was really impressed with the way the grief and character growth was handled, and I confess to shedding a tear or two.
Open Road Summer is probably not a book I’d pick up on my own, but I’m SO glad I did! This was an absolutely amazing contemporary that made me laugh, cry and swoon–sometimes all in just a few pages. A solid favorite for the beginning half of 2014. 5/5 cupcakes.