Published by Walker Childrens on April 15th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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.
I knew this book would be a hit with me right from the start for the simple reason that I love the premise. I mean, I love show biz, particularly singing, I love the celebrity romance trope, and this year I’ve been completely obsessed with the TV show Nashville. So teenage country music star on the road, behind the scenes romance with a swoony singer guy? I was ALL for it.
Seriously though, I loved the authentic depiction of the premise. All of the road trip adventures, behind the scenes at gigs, having to deal with the press… It was so reminiscent of Nashville, and I really loved Dee, who is amazingly down to earth for all the pressures that her stardom brings. She’s the kind of celebrity you’d just want to be best friends with. If she was real, I could see myself being a huge fan. Her songwriting, her personal style, it all screamed “DEBBY!”
In fact, I loved the friendship between Reagan and Dee. Those two have been through so much together and it was absolutely beautiful to see them relying on each other time and again. I think we all kind of have that vision of celebrity that once someone makes it, they’re living in a whole different world – so it was nice to see that no matter what, Dee came back to Reagan. The adventures of being on the road and going through the pressures of stardom made this a great friendship novel for me – and I do wish there were more great friendships in YA, so that’s a huge plus in my book.
But let’s be honest, most readers will be picking this up for the romance, and for good reason. Matt Finch deserves all the swooning in the world. He’s exactly what you dream your celebrity boyfriend would be like: hot, kind, charming, and, of course, a writer of swoony songs. He immediately caught my attention when he appeared, and I was head over heels for him, pretty much. But I liked that his relationship with Reagan really took the time to develop. I mean, my criticisms of Reagan aside (and we’ll get there), I appreciated how skeptical she was about Matt – that he might not be genuine, that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get into that. I felt it was really realistic, because I would have similar doubts if I were in her position. It gave the relationship depth and legitimacy and really got me rooting for them. There are so many cute and heartfelt scenes that just make this a GREAT summer romance.
The most glaring negative thing about Open Road Summer is the disappointing amount of girl hate going on. If you’ve read other reviews, you’ll probably have seen this mentioned quite a lot – and for good reason. As much as I wanted to like Reagan, who has her fierce moments and a snarky personality that somewhat appeals to me, any time any girl other than Dee was in a scene, she was critiquing them. They were wearing clothes that were too revealing, they were skanky, they were all over Matt, you name it. She goes on and on about that, judging all these poor girls without even speaking to them – after just glancing at them for a second. It’s ridiculous, especially because she too likes to dress in revealing clothes, party, and act promiscuously. She doesn’t even know what a hypocrite she’s being.
I wanted to yell at her: CHILL OUT. Putting people down like that all the time makes you look like a right bitch, and no wonder you don’t have any friends. It took a lot of effort for me to ignore this and to just keep being swept up in the romance, but I visibly winced and grimaced at each occurrence. Do we really need to be reinforcing that judging all these girls for no good reason is okay? Because, yeah, Reagan never gets called out on it or learns from it. I can deal with flawed and unlikable characters, but I do want to see growth from that – or at least acknowledgement from that character that those are flaws. That didn’t happen here. That is so damaging to our society and the teenage audience reading this book. Let’s stop, okay?