Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Publication date: April 14, 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: eARC, 353 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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.
If you’re ready to beat away the winter doldrums with books about road trips, music and summer love, look no further than Open Road Summer. I loved absolutely everything about this book – from the gorgeous cover to the very last line. I had high hopes for this one, had heard nothing but positive feedback from others who read it before me and I loved it even more than I hoped I would when I first set eyes on that amazing cover.
“As I stare back down at my photographs, my thoughts linger on a camera function called aperture, used to describe how much light is being let into the lens. It seems easy to think of myself this way – as someone who programmed herself to let in the least amount of light possible. There’s space for Dee and for my dad, and that’s the best I can do. When I met Blake, I let myself click open a few millimeters, unfurling like a spiral shutter. In fact, I let in just enough to be overexposed. Burned.”
Reagan wasn’t the easiest character to like at first, if I’m being honest. She’s a little rough around the edges and hasn’t had the easiest life. Her mom left when she was young. Her dad is a recovering alcoholic who is getting ready to marry his new girlfriend who Reagan isn’t a huge fan of. She’s prone to destructive behavior – especially with guys – and has been in and out of trouble recently. She loves to make an impression. She’s a photographer (we have that in common) and I loved hearing her talk about her photos. A few chapters into this book, I connected with Reagan. I started to see her behaviors for what they truly were: a defense mechanism to keep from getting hurt. If you don’t let people in, you won’t be destroyed when they disappoint you. But she was a good friend and I appreciated her snark and honesty. Her inner dialogue was quite amusing at times.
“To her fans, Dee is the best friend they’ve never had, and I guess that part isn’t so weird. Dee’s the only real friend I’ve ever had – the one who comes running even though I’d never admit I need someone by my side. She jokes that she keeps bail money in her nightstand; I joke that she’d be my one phone call. Only I’m not joking. She would be.”
Reagan’s best friend Dee (aka Lilah Montgomery) is a rising country star and about as far opposite Reagan as you can get. She’s a teen country idol; a good girl who is going through a painful breakup. Dee and Reagan have been friends forever. They’re each other’s rock. Through thick and thin, they’ve always been there for each other. It only makes sense that Reagan accompany Dee on her summer concert tour. The time away from home, her ex and her father will do her good. She needs a break.
“The look between them – the locked eyes and knowing expressions – is nothing more than a good friendship and mutual admiration. I know better than anyone. But their display of affection is convincing, and I have to glance away. It’s the same reason my dad can’t have dinner with any friends who might order a beer. It’s too damn hard to watch someone else get what you want.”
The summer that is supposed to be great times shared by just the two girls is quickly changed after a photo of Dee and her ex-boyfriend in what has been altered to look like a compromising position is leaked. Now it’s time for some PR damage control. It’s then that former child star Matt Finch joins the tour as Dee’s opening act and fake boyfriend. Reagan doesn’t want to share her friend, but despite her best efforts to steer clear of Matt, he gets under her skin. It’s not long before her summer is taking a completely different path than she expected, or thought she wanted, but wouldn’t trade for anything. Of course, things are tricky because Matt’s supposed to be Dee’s boyfriend, so he and Reagan have to keep things on the tour bus. I just want to be clear, though – there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE in this story. It would have been so easy to take the story there and I’m thankful Emery did not. It’s one of the things I love most about this book.
“If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she’s finished living in them. So I plant my feet here on this hillside beside a boy who is undoing me, and I kiss him back like I mean it. And, God help me, with the sky wrapped around us in every direction, I do mean it.”
Who am I kidding? I loved everything about this book. Emery has a way with words and can write humor as well as she can write the deeper, more meaningful moments. I loved the focus on friendship, whether it was Reagan and Dee, Dee and Matt, or eventually Reagan and Matt. I loved the dynamic in each of these pairings so much, even though they were very different. These characters are complex. They’re each running away from something and are forced to deal with those things while on the tour.
“His eyes are somewhere between gray and blue, and his hair is somewhere between brown and blond, and I am somewhere between hostile and attracted.”
Matt was absolutely perfection. He was a good and protective friend to Dee. He and Reagan went round and round, but anyone with eyes could see it was only because they were attracted to each other. Matt understood what Dee was going through as he’d had his own share of relationship drama in the news. He could relate to Reagan, once she opened up, because he too had lost his mom. He was a sweet (and HOT), the perfect boy next door, or in the next tour bus over, in this case. I loved his song lyrics, too. There was something vulnerable about him that spoke to me. Sure he had some cockier moments where I might have wanted to shake him, but those were more to get a rise out of Reagan than anything else. And boy did he ever. I adored these two together, whether they were fighting in the early days or flirting as time went on. They had a spark that jumped off the page.
“I dig the toe of my shoe into the dirt. “It’s complicated.”
“Is it? Most complicated things in life are actually pretty simple at the core. We put so much extra nonsense in the middle that we can’t even see how easy it really is.”
Of course, what’s a young adult road trip book without some drama and a hint of angst? It wasn’t overdone and didn’t feel forced though. It just made the story that much richer and believable, in my opinion. Now that’s not to say there weren’t some times when I wanted to yell at each and every one of my beloved trio for being ridiculous. But that’s just part of the process of reading a book where you care about the characters and what happens to them. Or, at least it is to me.
“He’s only nineteen, and I hope he doesn’t see me as too young for him. That would ruin my plans to flirt with him – not to start something up, of course, just to flirt for the hell of it. It’s a law of nature, like a cat with something shiny; dangle it in front of her long enough and eventually she’ll paw at it. Only in this case, I’m the cat and Matt is something shiny. The pawing part is the same.”
Open Road Summer was just a great read all the way around. It was sweet and funny and charming. It had plenty of funny moments and a lot of heart. The characters were rich and lovable. The plot kept me guessing as to what would happen next. I ended this one with a big smile on my face. Reagan was dealing with some pretty intense issues, but I thought they were handled well. She grew tremendously through the course of this book. I seriously can’t recommend it highly enough. It was one of my most highly anticipated YA reads of the year and it exceeded my every expectation. I have a feeling I’ll read this one a time or two more before the year is over. It’s that good.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All quotes come from the review copy and may differ from the final version.