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.
Officially, the summer is almost here. Unofficially, it's been around for awhile (at least it has where I live). And with the summer comes a craving for a few fun, easy, contemporary summer reads.
As the title suggests, Emery Lord's "Open Road Summer" fits the bill perfectly. Pick it up if you like road trips. Pick it up if you like musicians. Pick it up if you crave something contemporary and entertaining.
Definitely pick it up if you're coming down with wanderlust.
"Open Road Summer" follows Reagan O'Neill, a reformed troublemaker turning over a fresh leaf as she follows her best friend, America's country sweetheart Delilah Montgomery on her US summer tour. As they will in contemporary novels, Reagan as a protagonist comes with her share of baggage: an absentee mother, a former-alcoholic father, an array of ex boyfriends whose names might as well be Poor Decisions, a police record and a serious case of bad attitude. At first glance, Reagan is by no means a revolutionary protagonist. But as she herself struggled to learn the meaning of second chances, so I talked myself into giving her a chance to grow on me after my initial weariness. And sure enough, she surprised me. The first surprise came with the realization that I truly disliked Reagan, even with an open mind. I disliked her dislike of every single female character, however minor, who appeared in the book (apart from her best friend). I disliked her implicit slut-shaming (in a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black). I really disliked her judgmental ways. Which made the second realization all the more surprising: despite it all, Reagan is easy to like. She isn't perfect, nor does she ever become it. She makes bad choices and doesn't always apologize. Her thoughts (and often her words) are uncensored and she stands by them all the same. Reagan makes it okay to not act okay. And I liked her for it.
When a media scandal threatens Delilah's carefully honed image of a wholesome country star, the label invites her old friend, former teen heartthrob Matt Finch to be an opening act on Delilah's tour. And here is what I enjoyed about the story the most. Despite the possibility of a Dee-Matt-Reagan love triangle, the thought is never so much as entertained. Despite Matt's potential of being a playboy rockstar, he instead turns out to be a caring, devoted former pop star with a career come and gone behind him and a struggle to pave the future for himself. I was convinced I knew exactly what would happen as the story progressed: the paparazzi would get wind of Matt and Reagan's budding relationship, causing a rift between the characters, and Reagan would go right back to her old ways. Here, too, I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. In fact, as the story progressed, I began to think it would avoid most of the tropes that YA contemporaries have been so fond of lately.
And I almost got my wish. (But what a big almost it was.) [Spoiler hidden - see Goodreads review linked below to read the spoiler] These intrinsic dilemmas could have been brought on by many less-tropey, more likely scenarios. It would have made for a more enjoyable story. But in the end, it was one line that made up for it all:
"I am seriously thinking about calling the cops."
He continues to play and sing. "I hope you do, yes, I hope you do. Because maybe the sight of police officers will remind you that you've made mistakes, too, you've made mistakes, too..."
I laughed so hard I think I woke up my whole apartment block. I can't remember howling with laughter quite so manic while reading in a long, long time. It was one of those times where I dearly wishes at least one of my friends had read the book with me, so I could call them and share my amusement and have them actually understand where the punch line is. (But hey, there's a plan for tomorrow.)
I was told, in fact, that I laughed out loud quite a few times as I progressed through the story. I'm rarely aware of these instances on a conscious level, so I'll have to take my friend's word for it.
But really, it's not that big of a stretch to believe. "Open Road Summer" is the kind of story to make you smile. It will make you sigh. It'll make you nostalgic for the music you probably shouldn't be listening to. It will make you call your best friend to tell them how appreciated they are. It'll make you long for a beach. Take a trip. Get away. It might even make you laugh, if you let it.
GOODREADS: OPEN ROAD SUMMER
BOOK REVIEW: OPEN ROAD SUMMER BY EMERY LORD
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub