Today, we're reviewing Open Road Summer - a perfect debut novel and a perfect novel for the summer! :)
(And yes - summer is coming soon, you guys! I promise!)
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: April 15th 2014 by Walker Childrens
Format read: ARC via publisher - thank you!
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
Fortunately for me, Bloomsbury kindly sent me an ARC to read, and I completely, utterly, fell in love with this book while reading!
Things that worked:
While Open Road Summer is very much Reagan's story, Emery Lord makes it very clear from the first page that it's also the story of her friendship with Lilah "Dee" Montgomery, a pop/country music singer whose fame is quickly reaching super stardom.
As Reagan and Dee kick off an epic summer concert tour that will take them to locations all across the country, Emery expertly interlinks three stories at once: Regan's story of self-discovery after losing herself in the worst possible way, the story of the friendship between the two girls, and Reagan and Dee's different attempts at getting over love and difficult relationships.
Reagan absolutely won me over from the first chapter with her unique brand of snarky and insecure, but also through her fierce loyalty to Dee. I think any girl (and any person for that matter!) can totally understand what it's like to feel like you've made decisions that you aren't proud of, while also feel lucky that you have a friend like Dee who will always be there to help you and be there for you, as you're figuring out your next steps - and knowing that you feel exactly the same.
While we primarily learn about Dee through Reagan's eyes, Emery does a fantastic job of showing both the perks of superstardom, but also the realities and downsides of being an ordinary person who just happens to have a gift for reaching out to others. Some of the questions that Emery poses re: the price of fame - especially its impact on relationships - are thoughtful, well thought-out, and will definitely make readers think about the challenges of living such a life.
From beginning to end, Open Road Summer has the perfect combination of beautiful plotting and writing.
Emery makes both the tour itself interesting - random moments like the fact that Dee can't go to a gas station rest stop for trail mix, without causing a huge ruckus - but also has perfect example of quieter moments, where Reagan thoughtfully reflects on both her own life and the impact (both positive and negative) that Dee's fame has had on both of their lives.
She also does a fantastic job of plotting in introductions of new characters - hello, Matt Finch - that will make readers go !! and ?! and :D.
Bottom line: Emery is a skilled, beautiful writer, and she makes readers live and breathe Open Road Summer alongside Dee and Reagan, from beginning to end.
This is a book about a country/pop music tour, so it's not that surprising that music plays a pretty big factor in the story. Emery does a great job of incorporating music lyrics and the creative process behind the music - e.g. she describes how characters are inspired by their surroundings to write these songs - and how music can also be cathartic as characters learn new things about themselves and use the music to sort through the process and even move on.
Also, I'm not going to lie - I totally wanted to listen to Taylor Swift after reading Open Road.
The romance factor:
Even though the focus of the book is friendship, Emery definitely includes a nice helping of romance (and hotness) as well.
I loved the relationships between both Matt and Reagan, and (on to a lesser extent) Dee and Jimmy. Emery does a great job of showing how both couples fell and fall for one another, while also carefully showing that it's a combination of friendship and mutual attraction that makes their relationships the genuine thing.
As someone who's pretty conscious of finding books that are both swoony and show healthy relationships for younger readers, I will totally be recommending this for my younger reader pals, and for the daughters of friends/co-workers.
Without giving any spoilers away, the ending of the book was perfect. It was both realistic, while also perfectly tying up everyone's stories.
(Also, Matt Finch = my fictional boyfriend now. Sorry, Tom!)
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
*Makes hopeful puppy dog eyes at Emery for a sequel*
Regan and Lilah have the type of genuine relationship that is not only compelling to read, but also a fantastic model for younger readers on what a healthy friendship between women should be. I was genuinely touched by their friendship, and loved watching their friendship evolve and grow during the course of the tour and the novel. I also loved Matt Finch - but you're going to have to read the book to find out why.
I highly recommend Open Road Summer for fans of YA contemporary fiction, but also for readers who are looking a book that's focused on friendship and self-discovery, with a nice dose of romance thrown in. Huntley Fitzpatrick fans will definitely enjoy this book, as will Kasie West fans.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review, thank you!