Despite never having read a review for Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, I knew that it was well-received in the book blogosphere, and I wanted to read it. I think it was the title and the cover alone that convinced me because they evoked this sense of lightheartedness and warmth and freedom that I experienced right around my senior year of high school. Clearly I did not read the synopsis for the book very well because I missed the part about broken hearts and broken arms, and I found myself rather surprised that by the end of the book, there was a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.
Released: April 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
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Synopsis: 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.
Initially, I thought Lilah Montgomery and Reagan O’Neill were nothing but caricatures. Lilah Montgomery seemed like a too good to be true idol for tweens– like if Taylor Swift, circa 2006, was milquetoast, more conservative, and sang songs on the Disney Channel. Meanwhile, Reagan O’Neill had her bad girl credentials scrawled all over bathroom stalls. Bad stuff happened to them, and I didn’t care because they didn’t seem real.
On top of that, the novel took place during Lilah’s country music tour. Of the genres of music I’m aware of, I don’t think there is one that I like less than country. If it seems really petty of me that I let this element affect the way I read the novel, then it probably is. But I can’t help it. I felt disconnected from the music scene and don’t even get me started on sappy, country music lyrics.
Not because I didn’t particularly care that Lilah Montgomery’s heart was broken or the Reagan O’Neill’s mom ran out on her when she was just a kid. But because Emery Lord has this wonderful way of humanizing celebrities. The tabloids publish a risque photograph of Lilah Montgomery, who is still a teenager, and all of a sudden she begins to unravel. It threatens to crumble her young, innocent fan base, her career, and the delicate relationship between Lilah and her first love. How many times have I stood at the grocery store check-out lanes flipping through tabloids that exploit the lifestyle or privacy of a particular celebrity? How many times did a smug look cross my face as I thought, “That person probably should have made better life decisions”? As if I were the queen of keen judgement. Until Open Road Summer, I never thought how these articles might affect the person they were about.
I really hate to admit this, but my feelings for Open Road Summer changed once Matt Finch, potential love interest, was introduced. I can promote girl power and strong independent women all I want, but sometimes even I cannot help but brake for charming and positive stud muffins (case and point: my own stud muffin, Jon, who has been sweeping me off my feet since 2014). Albeit, Matt Finch is also a slightly arrogant ball of energy (Jon is not), but he slowly breaks down Reagan’s guard and makes her unexpectedly vulnerable and human. Sort of like another duo I found myself rooting for– Cath and Levi in Fangirl.
I used to love YA Contemporary novels…when I was a young adult. But these days, I hardly have the patience for them. I blame it on the fact that I’m 2.5 years away from being 30, and some days I forget what being a passionate and sometimes irrational teenager is like. But, Open Road Summer reminded me. Do you remember how painful your first heartbreak was? Or worse, how terrifying it was to let your guard down and fall in love for the first time? I think that’s why I spent the last one-hundred pages of the book with a lump in my throat. Suddenly, I wasn’t reading about Reagen O’Neill anymore. Instead, I was reading about 17-year-old me, shedding frowning faces and sarcastic remarks and the wall I had carefully constructed around me so that I wouldn’t have to experience the aching of a heart. I tell you, I don’t care how many bills they don’t have to pay or how great their metabolism is, I don’t envy teenagers because those adolescent years are terrifying.
I thought for sure Open Road Summer was going to be a reluctant, two star book, but somewhere along the way, the characters became rich and complex, the feelings and insecurities were raw, and the relationships between Reagan and Lilah and Reagan and Matt were beautifully portrayed and real. This novel is a worthwhile read and definitely worthy of four stars.