Title: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Rating: It’s Complicated
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.
This book is difficult for me to review. Instead of doing my normal format, I’m going to focus on different categories since I have some strong feelings about this book. If you don’t feel like reading some rants, feel free to skip ahead to the end to see a brief summary, because I have a feeling this is going to be a long review.
Things started off pretty well. If the whole book was like the beginning that this book probably would have been rated a 3.5 star at the least. Reagan is the best friend of a Taylor-Swift-esque country music singer who is distinctly country and not country-pop, so I probably wouldn’t like her music, but like her as a person. She’s Lilah to the world and Dee to Reagan and others close to her, so it was really cool seeing what she was like in real life, without the spotlight. Her family was amazing and welcomed Reagan as if she were one of the family as well and I wish we could have seen more of them! So, the beginning really drew me into the story and made me hope that the girl hate I’d heard about wasn’t that bad and that I might learn to love Reagan more (because, if you haven’t noticed, one of my favorite things about the beginning was Dee/Lilah, not necessarily Reagan).
And the friendship between the two girls was amazing. They had some bickering moments and a bit of a blow-out at one point, but for the most part they were there for each other and were just genuine and amazing friends. They didn’t let fame go to their head – Dee never acted like she was better than Reagan simply because she was famous, and Reagan never seemed to be jealous (mainly because she knew how difficult it could be for Dee). Even though Reagan fell for Dee’s fake boyfriend, Dee only cared about her friend and making sure she was happy rather than how it could make things difficult for her. It wasn’t a perfect friendship which is one of the reasons it seemed so perfect, and it didn’t seem like it was thrown into the story just for convenience or a plot point, which is something I desperately need in all of my books!
I did think the romance could be quite cute, mainly because I thought the much-raved-about Matt Finch was indeed quite cute and adorable and such, but… I wasn’t behind the romance completely because I liked Reagan less and less the more I read and that made it hard for me to root for her to end up with a guy who seems pretty awesome. There’s some romantic drama near the end as well that had me rolling my eyes so much because it was obvious what was really going on and since I didn’t care enough about Reagan, I had trouble rooting for her to understand. If I had liked her better than I think it would have seemed like genuine drama based on Reagan’s issues and past and such, but because I didn’t care for her, I had trouble feeling any sympathy which means the drama seemed pointless.
The focus of this book was Reagan’s journey from a broken bird to a fully healed person, complete with a romance thrown in to help with that. The story itself is fine, even entertaining and interesting (otherwise I might not have kept going with it), but when you hate the protagonist more and more every time she observes another girl or woman then it’s hard to keep going without wanting to slap some sense into her.
The Girl Hate & Slut Shaming
And this is why I couldn’t like this book despite some of the really good things I’ve touched on above. Reagan seems to hate pretty much all girls expect for Dee and Dee’s mother. If she’s not outwardly slut-shaming someone then she’s still judging them at least a little, like Dee’s Aunt Peach and Reagan’s stepmother (well, she’s quite mean toward her at the beginning, but their relationship kind of evolves, which is probably the only evolving female relationship, which is really sad).
Why This Made Me Especially Enraged
So why did this make me madder than slut-shaming and girl-hating normally does? When you have some an amazing and genuine female friendship, how the hell can you have so much slut- and girl-shaming? When you have a protagonist who likes wearing heels, makeup, and low-cut/tight clothes all the time (and there’s nothing wrong with that, just making that clear), how can you shame other girls for doing the same thing? How can you suggest that all girls who have crushes or are wowed by a male celebrity are brainless airheads who are nothing more than starstruck groupies? And she doesn’t just hate on people who lust after boys who like drinking or whatever – she hates on the one cheerleader at her school who apparently doesn’t like to drink or party hard, because apparently being a “goody-goody” is another horrible thing that girls can do. So, basically, you have to be Dee, Dee’s mother, or Reagan – otherwise, you are an awful person who doesn’t deserve to share the same oxygen with Reagan.
Seriously, how can you do this? It’s like I was reading two different books, one that was a solid look at female friendships and Hollywood magic and stress and a cute romance and another book that was about a horrible person who never learns the slut- and girl-shaming are wrong.
I’m having so much trouble deciding what to rate this book. I think I tagged this book with 2 stars for an in-between rating, but it’s easier for me to give a long-winded explanation here.
The former book, the one with the cool friendship and romance and a look at the world of celebrity, would probably get a solid 4 stars, but it’s hard to even decide that. You see, with all of the girl-hate and such, it’s hard for me to like Reagan much at all. In order to like a romance, I have to at least like both parties in the romance, so that makes it difficult for me to like the romance. It also makes it kind of difficult for me to truly like all the characters I like if they aren’t trying to teach Reagan that she shouldn’t be so judgmental. So, if I had liked Reagan, then I’m sure this book would have gotten at least a 4 star rating. If Reagan was less judgmental but I still didn’t like her, then this book probably would have gotten 3 or 3.5 stars.
However, I didn’t like Reagan. And therefore I just couldn’t like this book as much as I wanted. I feel bad saying so many bad things about Reagan because I feel like I’m girl-hating, but we shouldn’t be afraid to express our opinions about people we don’t like as long as we have solid reasons. Reagan doesn’t seem to have a good reason to be so horrible to girls, which makes it even worse. So, if I were to rate this book based solely on Reagan, it would get my very first 0 stars rating.
So, this book left me really conflicted, but basically it made me mad. Reagan’s horrible slut-shaming makes me mad, and the things I actually liked kind of made me mad because how could you have a great female friendship and then be so hostile to every other girl without bothering to show that this is totally wrong?! I’m willing to give Emery Lord’s future books a chance as long as the girl-shaming is toned done or, best of all, not there, but I definitely won’t be running out to get a copy until I hear what other people have to say.