Published by Walker Childrens on 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.
I have to start off this review by discussing the main character of Open Road Summer, Reagan O’Neill. This is what my grandmother would have to say about her: “She’s a pill.” And I would reply, “Grandma, you’re being way too nice.” I think Reagan was supposed to be written as the bad girl with a heart of gold; the tough chick who just needed a guy to crack her shell. Instead, what I saw a girl who despised and was insanely jealous of all women, with the exception of her (only) friend. She is sneeringly disrespectful towards everyone she encounters, and she doesn’t have an ounce of politeness or class in her body. Was I supposed to be charmed by this? Or find it funny? During the hours I spent trapped inside Reagan’s miserable head while reading Open Road Summer, here is a very small sampling of what I experienced:
– During a span of 20 pages, from 72-92, Reagan describes various girls and women as “skanks,” “idiots,” “drunks,” and “bimbos.” Men, on the other hand, are almost always pathetic losers, but they don’t receive nearly the same level of vitriol.
– Regarding another woman whose only crime was having two X chromosomes: “She really needs to dye her roots,” and Reagan wanted to “yank her dye job.”
– Reagan fantasizes about committing acts of violence against men and women who dare to talk to Matt, the guy she starts dating, and Dee, her best friend. In one instance, her reaction to meeting Matt’s lifelong (and female) best friend is: “Stop hugging my people, bitch.”
So, yeah, Reagan is a pill. But Open Road Summer still seemed to hold promise. Reagan’s best (and as I mentioned, only) friend, Dee, is a young country music star, getting ready to embark on a summer-long star. She invites Reagan to come along with her, with Reagan functioning as her counselor, personal assistant, and bodyguard. Just like Reagan’s personality, this road trip was a complete disappointment. Every chapter was titled with the current location and/or destination of the tour. I was initially excited to see that three out of the first five cities were places I’ve actually lived. Isn’t it fun to read about a city you know in a novel, to see what characteristics and locations the author describes? Not in this book, unfortunately. In every city Reagan and Dee visited, they stayed in “a hotel.” Dee performed in a “musical venue.” That was all we got. Why didn’t the author, at the very least, look up a few basic facts on Wikipedia? The whole point of a road trip story is to get a feel for every location to make them distinct from one another. There was absolutely none of that here. When I finished Open Road Summer, I wondered why there was a concert tour at all. Why not just keep Dee and Reagan in Nashville, where they originated? It would have been the same story, and maybe we could have gotten a bit of appreciation for that city.
OK, Reagan’s a bust, the tour is a bust, so that leaves us with the best friend, Dee, and the new guy, Matt. I’ll start with Matt. He’s perfect. Adorable, kind, compassionate. His only flaw is his inexplicable attraction to Reagan. I just can’t accept that such a nice guy would want to be involved with someone who is so full of hate. Dee is a bit more complex. She’s fairly new to fame, and she has no idea how to deal with it. Throughout the story, there are a number of stupid tabloid stories printed about Dee. Every one of them is a catastrophe and sends Dee into hysterics and breakdowns. I wanted to shake her and scream, “FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS, DEE!” Dee needs someone in her life to tell her that while she may be young, she needs to be a professional. This is not a big deal, and this is a side effect to the fame that she worked hard to achieve. Instead, the poor girl has Reagan. Reagan tries to be well-meaning, but when she threatens to kill everyone who upsets Dee, she helps to reinforce the idea that every blip is a full-on crisis. As with Matt, I cannot understand what Dee sees in Reagan.
With this type of story, you know everything is going to end up hunky-dory. There is a very predictable fight between Dee and Reagan, and a completely overblown misunderstanding between Reagan and Matt. It’s all quickly resolved, and I was quickly able to go back to not giving a damn about any of these people.