Open Road Summer
by Emery Lord
Released on: April 5th, 2014
Published by: Walker
Rating: 3.5 stars
Word rating: Many ups, a few downs.
Reviewed by: Ellis
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'm not entirely sure what happened here. I was so ready to flat-out love this book, and for the first 40 pages, it really seemed like it was going in that direction. Give me two broken and confused girls on a tour bus and I'll just be sitting here, happily waiting for the exact moment when you decide to destroy my feels. Unfortunately, the story sort of lost steam for me over the course of the novel and I never got back to the same level of investment and attachment I was feeling during the first few chapters.
The number one thing that makes this book so great is the friendship between Reagan and Dee. They've been through ups and downs, but the important thing is that they've always been there. For each other, I mean. They weren't just two anthropomorphic blobs existing on this place we call earth. Anyway. Emery Lord created an incredibly intricate portrayal of friendship and I absolutely loved it. Dee and Reagan know each other through and through, and this is something that is shown into detail. From zipping themselves up in suitcases to make sure their best friend has food before she eats one of the assistants, these friends almost always know what to do and how to amuse themselves, and each other.
This is why I'm so confused about all the girl hate and slut-shaming going on in this book. In the beginning, I could understand it. It mainly manifested in Reagan being fiercely protective of Dee. Add to that the fact that Reagan just doesn't like and/or trust people in general, and I could sort of file it away as constructive. I get that Reagan only opens up to a select few, and this is an issue that is, once again, masterfully handled throughout the story, but it's unfortunate that this so often seems to translate to (almost instant) girl hate. There's the fact that she usually doesn't even give men the light of day, so you could argue that she just isn't much of a people person, but for some reason she feels the need to be super vocal about her annoyance with girls and that bothers me.
The other thing that slightly ruined my overall enjoyment of this book has to do with the romance between Reagan and Matt Finch. Again, I was 100% in favour of this development at the beginning. Blame it on the fact that they officially meet when Reagan is being zipped into a suitcase, because situations like these often result into insta-ships for me. The fact that their budding relationship originally consists of banter and secrets, they're not supposed to date because, technically, Matt is fake-dating Dee for publicity even though those two are just very good friends (complexity, I like it), only adds to that. There are so many almost moments and when Reagan finally explodes in a dressing room, I was right there, joyfully exploding with her.
My problem with this ship is something that happens towards the end. Meg has perfectly termed this the plotberg, but when applied to romantic relationships, it also already existed under the name of "barrier". (Pamela Regis. History of the Romance Novel. Read it.) The problem is, at this point in my reading life, I'm completely over barriers. They often feel very forced to me and I don't like the idea that a couple immediately breaks up when they face an obstacle. Especially a couple such as Reagan and Matt, who were starting to form a very solid basis in addition to the banter and cuteness they already had going on, should be able to survive this, however new their relationship was at that point.
But, and it's a big but, where most authors would almost immediately try to force their couple together again, sometimes in the most unrealistic deus ex machina machinations possible, Emery Lord actually works with the obstacles she's set herself. She gives her characters time and makes them act according to their personalities. She doesn't conjure up some barely conceivable HEA out of absolutely nowhere, but what she does create, is a message of hope. It's smart, and realistic, and, above all, really shows how well she understands the characters she created. While I did sometimes think she overtold the story a bit, the way she subtly contrasts her two female leads, while also developing amazing and complex interpersonal relationships, is what ultimately made Open Road Summer a cute, solid read for me.