Published by Walker Books on April 15, 2014
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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.
When Crossroads came out, I was in high school, and I saw it with my friends opening night. I knew I would hate it. I knew it would be terrible. I was right. But I LOVE stories about teenage friendships. The friendships are my favorite part of any coming-of-age story. Something that adults frequently get wrong when writing about teenage romance is that in real life, girls’ friends are significantly more important to them than their romantic partners. Once you get older and start thinking about marriage and maybe starting a family, suddenly the person you date/marry/whatever becomes the center of your life, but in most healthy teenage relationships (those without co-dependency issues) this isn’t actually the case. Teenage girls rely on their female friends for most of their emotional needs.
The friendship between Reagan and Dee is the backbone of this story, and they fit together like one of those puzzles you could easily assemble even if all the pieces were turned upside down. Both girls are nursing broken hearts–Dee and her long-term boyfriend recently broke up because she was becoming a famous country singer, and he couldn’t handle all the public scrutiny; Reagan just dumped a drug addict who hit her–and each has her own way of mourning her recent loss.
Reagan is just kind of infinitely relatable. The unearned loathing she feels for her stepmother made me groan with embarrassment at how I treated my own stepparents (I’ve had four), and the way she threw herself into a scary, unhealthy lifestyle, including dating an abusive druggie, rings so true to how things can snowball out of control once a teenager starts to feel desperate and doesn’t have the right kind of support at home. Reagan has quit smoking, but she still craves cigarettes when she gets stressed (the way things like smoking and underage drinking are handled in this book is pretty great), and her non-smoking friends are really grossed out by it. She is understandably reticent to jump into a relationship with Matt after the terrible experience she had with her ex, and she is smart enough to move slowly with him while she figures herself out.
And Matt. SIGH, Matt. He’s so persistent in his pursuit of Reagan, but not in that pushy, awkward way. He gives her space when she requests it, and he is charmed and amused by her skittishness. I freaking love Matt. I wish I hadn’t had to read quite so many of his song lyrics, because original songs in books make me anxious, but he’s such a lovely boy.
Dee’s feelings toward her ex have a bit of an Adam and Mia in Where She Went vibe. She doesn’t blame him for breaking up with her, but they had one of those rare young love situations where they were actually kind of partners the way you are with your significant others as an adult (BTW, a 30-year-old friend of mine is married to a dude she started dating seriously when she was thirteen; these people are freaks of nature), so she is in a very specific type of bone-deep emotional pain. Over the course of the tour she, with the help of Reagan, grows and begins to learn who she is on her own, outside that relationship.
The only thing that really bothered me about this book was the lack of diversity. That was a real bummer. I would have liked for at least one significant character to be some sort of minority. Oh, and as I said above, I’m not generally a fan of song lyrics in books. They make me nervous. This book has a lot of songs in it.
Open Road Summer is like a crisp mojito on a summer day; I want twelve of them and I want them NOW. Why is this a debut novel? Why can’t I fall down the rabbit hole of hunting for everything Emery Lord has ever written? I’ll have to settle for re-reading this on a beach this June–maybe with a mojito.