Friday, March 21, 2014

Title: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Series: n/a
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

So, April and I both read this book at the same time and both ended up adoring it, and since we read the story sorta together, we figured we'd review it together. We've never attempted a joint review like this before, so we may ramble and we might digress, but I think our love for this book will shine through regardless. =)

What drew us to the book in the first place:

Jen:  Before being sent the invitation to read this title via Netgalley, I'd already had every intention of reading Open Road Summer. I'd read Jennifer Echols' Dirty Little Secret last year, which was about a rising country star, and I liked it well enough, but I kept hoping for more of a connection with those characters. From everything I'd read in early reviews for Emory Lord's debut, there was no question I'd find that connection with Reagan, Dee, and even Matt. Also, I'm sort of a recent convert to country music, thanks to my husband and daughter -- whose favorite artists are Eric Church and Carrie Underwood, respectively -- so I was intrigued by that aspect, as well.

April:  I saw it on Goodreads. A few bloggers I follow were reading it, and all of their status updates were positive. Then I saw it was on Netgalley and requested it right away. I knew this was something I would like based on the description. Plus, it has the word Summer in the title. This Winter has sucked, so I crave any story with warmth.

The Story:

Jen:  Open Road Summer is the kind of book that won me over to contemporary. The writing is solid and flows as well as the songs being sung on Lilah's tour, and it's touching in a way that isn't overly sentimental. It's fun and light-hearted, while at the same time delving into some deeper subject matter, including physical abuse and the effects of becoming a celebrity as a teenager. But the book isn't preachy, nor does it attempt to be an "issues" book; it's just a genuine story of how one summer on a country music tour can change your whole perspective, and I enjoyed it immensely...if that wasn't already clear. =)

April: I loved the story. I mean, how can you not? It's summertime and she's spending it on tour with her best friend. The whole set up is full of win. But it's not all fun and games, there are issues that arise, and issues that they've both already been working through. Have no fear though, Emery Lord tackles all of that while keeping Open Road Summer light and enjoyable. These kind of contemporaries make for the best summer reads.

The Characters:

Jen:  Connecting with the characters in a story is probably the most important aspect of the reading experience for me. I'm not a country music artist on my very first headlining tour and I don't come from a somewhat broken home, but even so, I felt a genuine connection to both Dee and Reagan. (Lilah Montgomery is Dee's stage name, in case you were wondering.) And Matt was just about the sweetest love interest I've ever come across -- I do like boys with Southern charm! -- but I'll get to him in a bit. I liked the group dynamic early on between these three friends on tour, and I liked how their relationships progressed over the course of the book, despite some tricky circumstances.

April:  Reagan is a tough cookie, and at first I wasn't sure if I was going to like her, but I warmed up to her character pretty quickly. Her friendship with Dee/Lilah is what thawed me. I adored Dee. I could not stop thinking of Taylor Swift while reading this though. She has this Taylor Swift vibe, but like if Taylor Swift wasn't annoying. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan, and belt her music in the car often, but I can see how she gets on some peoples nerves. Dee is the cute, country sweet heart girl, blonde hair, blue eyes, sings about her life experiences. But doesn't date every celebrity that walks by. She's awesome and I loved her. lol Matt, I really liked him, even though he was a bit cheesy at times with his songs.

Jen:  I totally got a Taylor Swift-vibe from Dee, too! Or maybe a younger version of Carrie Underwood. Or a mix of those two. But definitely a country cutie all the way. :D

The Friendship:

Jen:  Reagan and Dee are the kind of best friends you envy: they've been through thick and thin together and even the worst fight won't keep them apart for long. They'd do anything for each other, which is why Dee invited Reagan along on her tour when she saw that Reagan needed a break from what had become of her life. Reagan helps Dee attempt to get over a bad but amicable break-up and Dee gives Reagan the space she needs while also trying to help her cope with the fall-out of her own break-up, which includes the physical and mental effects of some physical abuse. These girls are thick as thieves, and watching the further evolution of their friendship during the cross-country tour was one of my favorite aspects of the story, especially when they were depicted just as two girls, hanging out and doing normal friend things.

April:  This was my favorite part of the whole book. There are not enough stories out there with friendships like Reagan and Dee's. I think that every girl should grow up with a friendship like theirs. I loved how Reagan was there for Dee when things got crazy. Like Jen says above, the evolution of their friendship was great to watch.

The Music & the Tour:

Jen:  The musical portions of the story were probably the weakest for me, and that's mostly due to Matt's writing songs for Reagan, which sometimes felt trite and a little cheesy. But it was also sweet. Reading about all of the behind-the-scenes stuff on tour was infinitely more fun. Except when Dee as Lilah was being harassed by paparazzi or found herself the subject of tabloid gossip. The way Dee handled it all seemed realistic, as did the actual interactions with the media, especially considering what you can read in gossip magazines or see on TMZ. It was unsettling and had my blood boiling at times, but I appreciated that this aspect of life as a country music darling was highlighted in the story, rather than being glossed over.

April: I normally don't like music written in books. When a whole song is written out, lyrics and such, it annoys me. Especially if it's often, because what do the songs actually sound like? Lyrics are never enough for me. Is that lame? lol. Maybe. I did love the tour stuff, the concerts and all that jazz. The paparazzi stuff had me pissed off too, but it's a real thing. If I ever had a chance to be rich and famous, I would turn it down because it's just not worth all that. I also think Open Road Summer covered that aspect well.

The Romance:

Jen:  If the friendship between Dee and Reagan was my favorite part of Open Road Summer, then the romance between Reagan and Matt was my second. Reagan just got out of a terrible relationship with an older guy who treated her badly. She's not looking for love while on tour with her best friend. But she wasn't expecting Matt to join them on the tour, nor did she expect him to be just the sort of nice guy she needed in her life. To complicate matters, because of gossip surrounding Lilah's newest album and her source of inspiration, Lilah's people are allowing speculation that Matt joined the tour as Lilah's boyfriend. Matt and Dee don't exactly pretend to be dating, but they don't deny the rumors either. Reagan's determination not to fall for Matt and let him in because of the potential heartbreak of dating a famous country crooner and Matt's resolve to win her over battle it out for much of the book, but it was fun rather than aggravating. And then there's that thing between Dee and Jimmy. *sigh* This book was just like reading a freaking country song. :D

April: The romance was cute. I loved that Reagan was hesitant at first. Coming out of a bad relationship, you aren't looking for a new one. That's realistic. I've been there, personally, so I connected with her in that way. But then Matt comes along, and some things you just can't fight. Like my husband for instance. I almost didn't date him because I just got out of a bad relationship, but here we are. Their romance was adorable and real to me. Also all the stuff Jen says above. She got to this section before I did and puts it into words so much better and I'm lazy so Ditto! lol.

Jen:  Haha, April...ditto works. :) OH! And I almost didn't date my husband because I was actually still in my bad relationship when we met. But I totally related to Reagan in that respect, as well. I think it's hard not to relate with her on some level.


Jen:  Open Road Summer is the quintessential summer read, full of ups and downs, love and loss, and I know I'll be picking it up for a quick read again this summer. Everything about this novel makes me smile, even when less than pleasant things were happening in the story, simply because it was so genuine and heartfelt. This book is definitely going at the top of my Top Summer Reads Recommendations list...whenever April and I get around to putting that thing together. =)

April: I loved Open Road Summer. It had everything I was looking for. It's one of those books that reminds me why I love contemporary so much. This was such a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Emory Lords stuff in the future.

*All of those cute little quotes you see came from the author's Tumblr.

GIF it to me straight:
After this book, we're both ready for summer & a good road trip! =D

About the author:

I write books about complicated families and the friends who save your life just by showing up and your worst mistakes and that boy who gets you like no one else ever has and the summer that changed everything.

Find Emory:

WebsiteTwitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumblr


  1. Sounds like a real cute story! I'm a T-Swizzle fan too! :D I like how you discussed this review, and I can feel you two really liked it!

    1. It was absolutely adorable! And you can't help but love Taylor, right? I'm glad our love for this book came through, though I really had no doubt it would. We were nearing fangirl status. :)

  2. I heard too many good things about this book. I am very tempted to buy this one.

    1. Everything you've heard is true! :D I'll definitely be buying my own finished copy.

  3. One of my favorite reads of this year so far! The friendship was probably my favorite aspect of the book too. Such a great overall story. I can't wait to hear about the author's next book!

  4. I'm so glad you both enjoyed this one so much. I want to read it, but I just literally couldn't take on another April book (the month April), but I know I'll be snagging it from the library once it's out. I love books that focus on friendship and, even though I'm not really a country music fan, the aspects of that life--touring, etc. I can't wait to read this now. Great review!

  5. YAY! I loved this one too. I agree that the friendship between Dee and Reagan was one of my favorite elements. I enjoyed all the behind the scenes parts of the story as well - I'm a sucker for those. And I loved Matt and Reagan's romance. I didn't mind the music written, though I wish Reagan had appreciated it more. Fun dual review!

  6. AHH this review makes me so happy! I *just* won this book from the author yesterday on Twitter so I'm itching for it to show up on my doorstep.

  7. This book was so good and it literally had everything I want from a contemporary novel - kickass main protagonist, amazing friendship that is flawed and thus very real, cute and charming love interest, wonderful character development... just everything about this one made me fall in love with it!

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