Recommendation Tuesday: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.
This week I'm happy to recommend a debut contemporary YA novel, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. If you're looking for a a summer-themed read that offers a bit more than you're expected, this is a great choice.
There are oodles of summer road trip stories and I've gotten pretty particular about them, as much as I enjoy road trip narratives as concept. Open Road Summer is a bit different, however. Instead of a quest sort of story, the narrator, Reagan, is tagging along with her best friend, Dee, on a very structured sort of road trip--Dee's first major tour as emerging country artist Lilah Montgomery.
Reagan is not only grabbing the opportunity to spend time with her close friend who is rocketing to stardom, but to run away from a bad breakup and make changes in her life: No more partying, drinking or boys that are bad for her. She's a bit surly, and definitely not very forgiving of other people--I found Reagan infinitely relatable.
In order to drum up publicity for the tour, Dee's record label orchestrates the addition of Matt Finch--former boy band member--to the tour in hopes that rumors will start about Dee/Lilah and Matt, mitigating some really nasty rumors about Dee and her ex-boyfriend.
Matt's addition to the tightly-knit Dee-Reagan duo does not sit well with Reagan at all, who was hoping to have her friend all to herself. But much to her surprise, the affable Matt isn't so bad after all. He's a good friend to Dee (fake boyfriend trope with a twist!), and seems to actually want to get to know Reagan for who she is, prickly personality and everything else.
The romance between Reagan and Matt is a pretty fantastic one, though I could have done without the unnecessary conflict near the end, since the primary conflict in their relationship was an internal one with Reagan, who struggled to allow herself to be open to Matt's kindness and caring. For me, that was interesting enough and didn't need an external wrench to make the payoff more worthwhile.
I appreciated that while this is a on its surface a fairly "light" read, Lord still touches on some important topics related to the masks people wear, whether they be more literal in terms of DEe and Matt's on-stage, public characters or figurative in the form of Reagan's walls around her emotions. She also tackles the way friendships change in a way I wish books that are labeled "new adult" would. There's some good stuff in this one, if you want to see it, much like another Recommendation Tuesday pick, Jennifer Echols' Biggest Flirts.
Finally, I often find songs integrated into books kind of silly--they're usually hokey for me. But, in the instance of Open Road Summer, the songs are actually well-crafted and make so much sense for the rhythm of the story. It reminded me a bit of This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen in that way (and also in terms of the main characters), though I believe there's only a single song that's integrated into that particular story.
I read Open Road Summer in a couple of leisurely evenings, when it was still dreary and miserable and it was a lovely infusion of summertime right when I needed it. If you, like me, love strong contemporary stories with complicated narrators, this is one you won't want to miss.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher.