As excited as I was for Open Road Summer, I was also nervous. Highly hyped books often let me down. Plus, I’d heard it was about a country music star (similar to Taylor Swift), and I loathe country music with a fiery passion. With trepidation I embarked on this road trip, but, for once, the book lived up to the hype. I loved Open Road Summer fiercely. The romance is sweet and utterly shippable, but, even more, Open Road Summer is a powerful and touching story of friendship.
Neither Reagan nor Dee (more famously known as Lilah Montgomery) were what I was expecting. Maybe I would have anticipated Dee’s character if I knew anything about Taylor Swift aside from the fact that she’s known for mopey break up songs. Dee, similarly, is on a tour for an album full of songs in which she’s processing her break up from her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy. However, Dee’s not a self-involved, mopey starlet. She’s perky in a way so genuine that she’s impossible to hate. Even better, she’s adorably grumpy when she’s sick. Though her life is absurdly busy, she makes time for her best friend, Reagan, and is so thoughtful of her. So often, YA novel friendships are catty frenemy situations, but Dee and Reagan love one another and legitimately care about each other. Both receive plot lines and character development, and they put their friendship over other relationships. It’s so sweet and adorable.
Where Dee is sunshine and rainbows, Reagan is darkness and trouble. Reagan’s on probation after being found with alcohol underage. Her arm’s in a cast from something terrible, but you won’t find out what for a while. She dresses in low-cut shirts and short dresses or shorts. The old Reagan partied hard and hooked up with cute boys. After a couple of wake up calls, Reagan is trying to make herself anew, but she doesn’t really know how to be. As a way of escaping her old life and getting to spend time with her famous best friend, Reagan goes on tour with Dee.
In almost every way, I love Reagan as a main character. She’s staunchly defensive of her friends, bitter, and smarter than most people give her credit for. She felt one hundred percent real to me. She’s broken, but she’s trying to mend. She’s changing for herself, and for no one else, which is why her transformation seems to believable. Plus, though she transforms, it’s not because of the romance and it doesn’t change the way she is. Reagan’s never going to be a fluffy bunny; she’ll always be snarkastic, but she’ll learn to love and trust more than she can now.
The romance with Matt Finch is freaking adorable. I shipped them pretty much immediately, from the moment he walked in to find Reagan zipped up in Dee’s suitcase (they were seeing if she could fit). The two have this awesome snarky banter, even when they’re at their most lovey-dovey. So yeah, OF FREAKING COURSE I SHIP IT. Their relationship is equal parts sexual attraction and a burgeoning connection built on understanding. They really get to know one another in a real way, and watching them bond is a total squeefest.
Open Road Summer‘s road trip is a fun one. They barely leave the buses, because if the stars get off the bus it will be a mob scene. They go all over the US, but see so little. Lord captures both the adventure and the utter lack of it involved in the tour. It’s a life of such restriction for Dee, despite all the perks. Lord shows how much Dee thrives on it and appreciates her luck, but also the ways it’s hurting her too. The story of Dee and Jimmy wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and is quite touching.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The only aspect of Open Road Summer which I did not love wholeheartedly was the way that Reagan reacted to other girls. Basically any girl who talked to Matt was dismissed in slut-shaming terms, which is cruel and hypocritical. She thinks various snide comments about how low cut their shirts are, while constantly delineating to the reader how low her own tops are. Her possessiveness got old, and I would have liked to see her outgrow that. Of course, that’s going to take a while, because of another plot point which I didn’t like: View Spoiler ».
The Final Verdict:
More than a romance, Open Road Summer is the story of the loving friendship between two girls. This is the sort of book I’ve been waiting for: swoony romance, supportive friendship, and lots of heart and humor. I can’t wait to see what Lord does next.