Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Title: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Walker
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Rating: ★★★½

Summary (via Goodreads):

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. 

Open Road Summer is a lighthearted summertime read with a strong friendship and the kind of romance we've all probably daydreamed about at some point. However, there are a bunch of things that niggled at me, which made for less pleasant reading experience overall.

Reagan is an interesting narrator – aggressively defensive (how's that for an oxymoron?), rebellious but reforming, fiercely loyal. She reminds me of Nastya from Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility, which, incidentally, I disliked so much that I could not read past page 49. Both Reagan and Nastya are a little bit cynical. They wear this protective layer – a "don't mess with me" look on their faces – and it feels like they are constantly daring the universe to try and do its worst. Their affection is hard won, and they are both judgmental, often holding other girls to the same double standards that they scoff. There's quite a bit of condescending girl hate in Open Road Summer, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in a book.

Fortunately, Reagan is a little more tolerable than Nastya. I think a big part of it is that her friendship with Dee makes you see her in a better light, in spite of all her flaws. Dee is your standard all-American country singer. I equate her to Taylor Swift, except authentically Southern and possibly a bit more squeaky clean. Dee and Reagan seem to be complete opposites, so it makes their relationship unexpected but endearing.

The romance in this book isn't particularly electric, but it's definitely very sweet. There are a handful of passages that make you sigh and want to go listen to the old love songs from Taylor Swift's self-titled album. (Or was that just me?)

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.

Matt Finch of former boy band fame (he's somewhere between Hanson and the Jonas Brothers in my head) is your average Nice Guy™ – kind, witty, very persistent, quite sassy... He's normal, which makes him immediately likable. He's perhaps not a character you might fall in love with, but you can certainly see why someone else might. The banter between Matt and Reagan is well-written and realistic. In fact, most of the dialogue in Open Road Summer feels that way – realistic, candid, unforced – despite the fact that we're talking about a major country singer, a former pop star, and a summer-long cross-country tour.

Parts of this book do feel trivial – the conflict is somewhat self-imposed and you can't help but wonder why everyone's making such a big deal out of everything. At the same time, although they are kind of silly, the problems in Open Road Summer aren't the type that weigh heavy on your heart once you close the book. It's a carefree novel that makes you appreciate good friends and innocent love. Quick and easy to read, Open Road Summer is a solid debut from Emery Lord. Summer's almost over but this book helps it live on.

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