Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)

Summary: After a disastrous ending to a relationship with a bad-news guy (and basically a lifetime of bad choices), Reagan is more than ready to hit the road for the summer with her best friend, Dee... aka, teen country superstar Lilah Montgomery. Dee, also dealing with her own broken heart on top of the pressures of fame and her career, is headlining her first major US tour.

When a particularly harmful tabloid news story drops, the girls are joined by Dee's new opening act, Matt Finch. The plan is for the media to start gossiping about Dee and Matt, but it's Reagan who catches his eye, and it's not long before sparks begin to fly.

But Reagan has been conditioned to expect the worst from almost everyone in her life, including herself, and therefore, the walls she has built up seem impenetrable, and if she allows Matt to break down those walls, she's worried that her heart will be the next thing to break.

Thoughts: This book was an impulse purchase, and I thought it would be a cute, fluffy teen romance (there's plenty of "cute" and "fluff" and "romance," for sure), but I love that it ended up being more than that.

To be honest, this is really a story of friendship--best friendship--first and foremost, and secondly, it's also a story of "insides" and "outsides." As in, who we are on the inside vs. how we appear on the outside.

Reagan is a sarcastic, unflinching b****. (Not a criticism, by the way--it's her self-admitted description.) She's got a reputation for trouble that includes an arrest record and a string of hookups and drunken nights out. Aside from Dee, she doesn't let anyone in easily. But with a father who is an alcoholic, and a mother who would disappear for weeks at a time (until she never came back at all), it's understandable that she has had to develop such a hard shell.

Dee is known to the world as Lilah, the perfect teen girl role model, always with a gracious smile for her fans and never a hair out of place. But as her career takes off and she becomes more and more famous, the line between her public self and her inner self becomes more and more defined, and there are very few people in her life who know the real Dee.

Romance plot aside, this novel is such a great tribute to the best friend, the one who knows the real you and loves you anyway. "It takes a long time to learn someone. It takes a long time to see a person as a whole spectrum, from worst to best... Once you get there, it’s forever," Reagan says at one point, and it's absolutely true. I couldn't help thinking about my own best friends, as I read this book--the ones with whom you can drop your walls or take off your mask and be perfectly yourself with, without being afraid of being judged (but who will also always tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear). I would say that this novel is definitely about whom we let into our private inner lives, and the fact that it really is a privilege to be that person for someone (and in turn, to have someone in your life who can be that for you). This was definitely a novel about besties.

And not to discount the romance plot, I really liked Matt and Reagan--they are both creative and smart and can totally go toe-to-toe with each other in a battle of wits. It was FUN seeing their feelings develop, because I think I find them interesting individually, and when they're together, there are definite fireworks.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book! Of course, how ironic that once I got past the "outsides" of this novel (the publicity blurb, the cover art), I found the "insides" to be so much richer and full of depth.