I think I’ve found my favorite contemporary novel. I’d heard amazing things about this book and every single one of those people were right. Truly, I don’t think Emery Lord could have delivered a better debut.
I’m declaring Reagan as my soul sister. I loved her voice and her character and her tough-as-nails demeanor. Moreover, while Reagan has one hell of a rough exterior, there’s a deep vulnerability to her that just made me love her all the much more. Reagan’s a little bit broken, both physically and emotionally, and she sees the summer ahead of her as way to heal, pick herself up and start fresh. Then comes along Matt Finch and she gets lost in the feelings he brings forth—feelings that scare her shitless, all the while lifting her higher and higher. Here is a girl who’s endured harsh, cruel words and not only has it hardened her heart, it’s also made her reluctant to trust and open up. Reagan’s built numerous walls around her, and as the story goes on, we see as she slowly lowers them around a boy that has the power to undo her.
You are the only person who can build emotional barriers, but you’re also the only person who can topple them. Other people can’t knock down the walls you’ve built, no matter how much they love you. You have to tear them down yourself because there’s something worth seeing on the other side.
Matt Finch was everything that I wanted and more. So much more. He was a bit cocky and smug, but most importantly, he could dish it right back at Reagan. I loved every interaction between the two. I was either smirking, laughing or smiling any time they were together. Like Reagan, Matt’s been hurting deeply for a while now. I just wanted to wrap him up and never let go. It might be cheesy of me to say so, but Matt and Reagan really do heal each other. Not only does Matt challenge Reagan to lay down her barriers, but she challenges him to let her see the real him. Neither Reagan nor Matt are perfect, but they are perfect for each other. They may argue and disagree on many things, but together they brought out the best in each other, and really, what more could I want?
I’ve been arguing on the side of a dirt road with a petulant singer who’s wearing a guitar on his back. This entire scene is a mess, and maybe we’re a mess, too. But it’s still him and still me, and there’s still that feeling of possibility—the one that sparks like a Roman candle inside me as his lips touch mine. And it’s a start.
It’s not often that an author can makes us fall in love with both the primary and secondary characters, but that’s what happens in Open Road Summer. Even though the novel is told in Reagan’s POV, the picture depicted of Dee was whole, and one that I fell in love with as well. Furthermore, I was just as invested in Dee’s life, as I was with Reagan’s. Reagan and Matt were it for me, yet I was still hoping and rooting for Dee and Jimmy. Really, never have I loved a secondary character as much as I loved Dee. And to make things even better, the paperback copy I own includes a bonus chapter in Dee’s POV that was beautiful and amazing and everything I could have wanted. Not only did I fall in love with Dee’s voice, but I got to see a different side of Reagan and their friendship—which was a beautiful entity in its own right.
This is the currency of friendship, traded over years and miles, and I hope it’s an even exchange someday. For now, I do what all best friends do when there’s nothing left to say. We lie together in all the darkness, shoulder to shoulder, and wait for the worst to be over.
Words truly cannot express how much I loved Open Road Summer, and while it was a damn shame that I didn’t read it sooner, I’m glad I don’t have to wait a whole year to experience more of Emery Lord’s captivating and beautiful words.