Around this time of year, I start craving summer vacation, even though I’m way out of high school. Even if I can’t take a summer off, I can turn to some awesome summer vacation-y reading. One of my new favorites? Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while and it so delivered. Here are a few reasons to read Open Road Summer.
1. Not a Nice Girl
There are a lot of nice girls in YA–girls who are shy and do what they’re told and wish things could be different. Reagan O’Neill is not a nice girl and I love that. Don’t get me wrong–she’s loyal and funny and the kind of best friend you want around. But I love that she’s also bold and fierce and funny and flirty and makes mistakes. She’s the kind of girl I wouldn’t have expected to be friends with in high school, and would have found myself totally drawn to before realizing “Of course we’re friends!”
2. Nice Guys
Matt Finch, y’all. Meet your new YA crush. Matt’s a former child music star who’s trying to make it as an adult in the music industry. He’s talented and funny and and sweet and open. I just love his chemistry with Reagan.
3. Best Friends Forever
The romance in Open Road Summer is fantastic, but it’s just as much about friendship, which is so refreshing. Reagan and Dee feel like girls who have known each other forever and will always be in each other’s corners. Dee is such a fun character in her own right, too–she doesn’t exist just as a plot device for Reagan, which is how so many “best friend” characters end up feeling. She’s got her own stresses and struggles to deal with, like trying to figure out how to balance wanting a career as a musician with wanting a regular life at home with the guy she loves. (Okay, maybe I need a Dee sequel.)
4. Music and Lyrics
Emery Lord, are you secretly a country-pop-folk music guru? Music pervades Open Road Summer, which makes sense as the main characters are all on a cross-country music road tour. Usually I feel like music lyrics in books fall flat, but Emery seriously nails them. Whenever characters are singing/playing/listening to music, I felt like I could hear the song myself. The only other time I can really think of this happening was with The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. This is major praise coming from me, guys.
5. Road Trip
Reading Open Road Summer was like getting a mini-vacation. The characters cross the country, hitting Memphis and LA and Charlotte and Chicago and lots of stops in between. Even (especially?) if you’re not taking your own road trip this summer, this book will give you all those good travel vibes.
6. Behind the Scenes
Emery does a great job of looking at the life of a rising musician and what challenges, excitement, and stresses go along with that. We get to see the good things, like adorable fans who are just so freaking excited to hear their favorite songs, and the bad things, like pregnancy rumors and being trapped in a photoshoot without getting to eat any of the craft service food without risking makeup ruin. I love that Dee understands that this life has major ups and downs, and her frustrations never feel whiney.
7. Family Ties
For a book largely about friendship and relationships, there are also a lot of awesome family dynamics in here. From Reagan’s complicated family situation to Dee’s supportive family to Matt’s situation with his mom, there are a lot of interesting looks at what it means to be a family and how we connect when times get tough. A majorly pleasant surprise.
8. Photo Opp
Dee’s not the only talented friend in the relationship–Reagan’s a photographer who documents her time on the road. I loved this aspect of her personality, and also that Reagan mentions things like particular types of cameras and having taken classes at school and photo editing. It wasn’t a major plot issue, but it made Reagan feel that much more real.
“New Adult” has been a phrase that’s been batted around a lot over the last couple of years, and I feel like reading Open Road Summer made me think “oh, this is kind of what it is.” Dee and Matt are navigating their careers, and Reagan is figuring out where her life is going next. Although I’d still classify Open Road Summer as pretty clearly YA, I can see it having a lot of crossover appeal to slightly older fans, and I think it’s a good indication of what New Adult could be.
10. Emery Lord Is Awesome
Emery and I are agent-sisters (yay Taylor Martindale!) and she was one of the first people I interacted with post-signing. From the first email exchange, Emery has been one of the sweetest, funniest, most genuine people in the YA world. I’m so excited for readers to experience her lovely book and to see her career grow.
Open Road Summer is available now, so make sure to add it to your summer reading list!