Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road Summer
Emery Lord
Walker Children's
[April 15, 2014]


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.

Oh Open Road Summer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways, though they are as numerous as the stars. 

In all seriousness, Emery Lord kind of killed me with the perfection that is her debut and I'm equal parts terrified and stoked for what her next book will do. Like, this was I-must-send-gushy-fanmail levels of love for this book. I swear, this summer is THE GREATEST for perfect contemporary YA.

I've talked before about the fact that I sang for most of my K-12 years. 8 years of choir, 3 solo competitions, 1 road trip to compete as a choir. This all started because when I was super young, I wanted to be a country-ish singer. The first song I ever memorized that wasn't a nursery rhyme was a Shania Twain song and I would sing it whenever I was asked to. But I was also a huge Britney Spears fan, so I didn't want to be TOTALLY country. This is why I got angry when Hannah Montana became a thing because man did I want to be that exact kind of artist. And now Taylor Swift exists and it's like these other people just STOLE my childhood dream.

...Anyway, the point is that country and singing are strong in my roots. And when I was reading Open Road Summer was one of the first really nice spring days, which is always a huge listen-to-country-walk-barefoot kind of thing for me when I'm at my parents'. So, I was a little mournful of not having singing in my life anymore and not being at my parents' to celebrate spring properly. Then I started reading Open Road Summer and cried twice within thirty pages. I had THAT much of an emotional connection to this book from the very beginning. It wasn't even sad, I just immediately bonded with Dee and Reagan.

And Reagan. Oh Reagan. She was just a three dimensional character. I worried a bit that she was going to be the stereotypical snarky "bad" girl, but nope. No way. She was so much more than that. She had dreams that she was striving toward and a past she was trying to forget and family problems and friend problems and I could identify with her in so many ways. The way she grew and changed and began to grasp what her life was was so familiar to me and it was incredible to watch her flourish into someone who was so solid and ready to go with life. She was so very real.

And Dee. Oh, Dee. I had that personal bond with her, but otherwise, her position was so difficult and seemed so much more mature than any high schooler should be dealing with, but she was. And she was just so good and didn't deserve any of it. It hurt my heart every time something else went wrong with her. 

The friendship between Reagan and Dee was phenomenal. A lot of friendships seem to run smoothly for years, then suddenly the problems erupt and this was the summer for them to hash things out. And it hurt but it was so good. I had like this secondhand emotional release watching them push out all the issues they've been having. They're so much better than I ever have been with my friends.

Now, it's time. It's time to talk about Matt Finch. I think there's almost this universal understanding that musicians? They do things for girls. I'm sure they don't for some of you, but it seems like they do for a LOT of girls. And you know what else? Bad boys can be fun every once and a while, but I'd MUCH rather have your genuinely nice guys (not Nice GuysTM, thanks) and your nerds and geeks. Bring me the genuine and the sweet with some backbone! And Matt Finch is a nice boy and a musician and a songwriter and he also has plenty of backbone. He could give just as good as Reagan could and tease her and fight back and be charming. And I love him so much that he has to always be called Matt Finch, not just Matt. Matt's not good enough for him. 

Since so many of my friends had already claimed Matt Finch and Emery has promised me a nerd for the next book, I went ahead and claimed this future-unnamed-nerd-boy. Because I have zero doubt that all the boys Emery Lord writes are going to be as wonderful and perfect as Matt Finch.

All this and I haven't even talked about the story or the writing which are equally incredible. Emery's writing is beautiful and confident and it's full of Reagan's voice. The story is a road trip and also about musicians and friends and family and relationships and it covers so much in this relatively average sized book without letting anything fall behind. It's such a fantastic balance and twisty and turny and romantic and hard and real, so very real for a lifestyle most of us will never experience.

I loved every. Single. Thing. about this book. I can't think of a SINGLE bad thing in it and I've gotten remarkably good at finding flaws in books since I took up this whole editing thing. Please, please go buy this. Today. Now. Tomorrow. Sometime this week. And talk about this book and push it on your friends. I believe in this book SO MUCH as evidenced by my never ending review. Just, seriously, if you don't like it, you can tell me and I will probably shun you for a little bit. So don't even tell me. Just go read it and love it and make others read it.

--Julie

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