Synopsis: 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 I was in middle school, I had a MASSIVE Justin Bieber phase immediately followed by a quick but passionate love of One Direction. Since I was on a reading sabbatical and was in middle school, I fangirled like it was my job. I’m talking 40 hours a week. Full time career. You’ve gotta be prepared at all times when you’re a huge fan – HEAVEN forbid another fan challenge you to name Bieber’s birthday and you don’t have it down to the second. And honestly, thank God I’ve forgotten it by now. I don’t think it’d be possible to maintain the veneer of normalcy I try to rock if I had a disgraced teen pop sensation’s date of birth tucked away.
Anyway. When I wasn’t, like, making flashcards with Zayn Malik’s birthday on them, I was reading fanfiction. And the best ones were always the ones that took place on tour. Ahhh. I remember them so fondly. The main girl is the opener, or the makeup artist, or the manager’s second cousin’s best friend or whatever. SO GOOD.
So. Why am I talking about this, you ask? Well, that’s because the only difference between this book and something I could dig up on OneDirectionFanFiction.com is that I’m not 13 anymore. Also this doesn’t have any of the charm.
Our guy in this book, Matt, could never face off with a fictionalized version of the Biebs (is that a thing?), or Harry Styles, or a massively upcycled version of one of the guys from One Direction who isn’t Harry or Zayn. He’s boring. (Matt, I mean. Not one of the One Direction guys. Although them too, to be honest.) I’m not a fan. I really don’t know what to say beyond that.
Even the storyline of this is IDENTICAL to the fanfiction I would read. Boy and girl (Matt and Reagan, respectively) are on tour, girl pretends to hate boy while he “““jokingly””” hits on her, they kiss, they start dating, there’s a grand romantic gesture on the tour’s off day, things seem perfect, drama happens but it’s NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!!!! and absolutely everything ends happily forever. And don’t forget the inevitable best friend fight (in this case between Reagan and the famous one, Delilah/Dee/Lilah.) There’s even a moment where Matt applies to a college and gets in within the span of two weeks. IT’S LIKE A FAIRYTALE. Oh, fanfiction.
But unfortunately, those similarities are far from the worst part of this book. If only that were the case, I could’ve mentally replaced Matt’s name with Justin and given this three, three and a half stars on nostalgia alone. Unfortunately I’M NEVER ALLOWED TO LIKE ANYTHING. Gods of book-related social media, please end this drought.
The reason this book joins the glorious ranks of the books I’ve already slapped with one star in 2017? That fresh girl on girl hate, my friends. It’s so damaging. I couldn’t even keep track of it at a certain point. Up until page 80 or so, I was having a great time with this…and then suddenly: SLUT SHAMING. FULL FORCE. ALL HANDS ON DECK. Then that expanded into general girls hating each other. Maybe one of the worst contemporary tropes.
I was caught off guard. Especially because this book advertises itself as centering on girl on girl friendship, which usually ensures a book that doesn’t involve BLATANT ANTIFEMINISM. But alas, I was not safe. Here, I brought quotes.
But seriously. Once I started collecting them, I couldn’t stop. A girl can’t make eye contact with our ever-so-lovely protagonist without Reagan’s infuriating internal monologue commenting on her clothes, or insulting her appearance. Or, above all, slut shaming her. I can’t remember if my fanfiction days were like this, because I was IGNORANT then. But bad news for this book: I’m woke now, motherf*ckers.
I’m just going to quote dump. Here we go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:
1. When an innocent girl is innocently dancing with Matt while, God forbid, Reagan has an unspoken crush on him: “I survey her appearance, which is so obvious—long hair in full curls, skintight dress, and stacked heels. This look is amateur, the one I’d resort to if I was feeling lazy. I thought Matt had better taste than that.” The best part is that our Reagan literally wears shorts and a tank top every day. Did someone say fashion icon???
2. After Reagan cyberstalks and shit talks Matt’s past girlfriends:“Basically what I’m saying is I think I could give either of those girls a run for their money.”
3. In which a fan approaches Matt politely and Reagan tears her a new one: “The band is winding down when a girl zeroes in on us—or, more specifically, Matt. She’s compact and curvy, topped with round curls that must have taken some serious hot rollers. Her hair dye is probably called Goldenrod or Honeysuckle, but it’s actually the color of Aging Butter or Dry Cornbread.”
4. When Reagan hits a new low – I gasped aloud – and equates anything that isn’t colonial America style modesty with self-hatred:“There are a few girls in the front with shirts cut so low that they make my neckline look modest. Like, honestly — if Matt so much as glanced down he could probably see all the way to their belly buttons. Some girls have no self-respect, and even though they can’t see me, I make a face of disgust. Case in point: if Matt and I were together, I’d have to put those girls in their places. And I really can’t afford another misdemeanor.” Yes, please fight girls because they’re wearing shirts that aren’t turtlenecks and managed to get good seats to see their favorite performer! America thanks you! Hero’s work!
5. The gorgeous, elegant, late-in-the-game appearance of America’s least favorite trope: “God,” he mutters. “Most girls love it when I write them a song.”
“Well, I am not most girls,” I snap at him.
6. Looking at a picture of her boyfriend’s best friend: “She looks… Wholesome. And friendly. Like a Muppet.” Girlfriend GOALS, am I right?
7. In case we didn’t have enough sweeping generalizations: “When a baby starts screaming in public, most women jut out their lower lips and say “Aww, somebody’s sad.”” I LOVE when people tell me about most women!
8. “I’d be pissed, too, if I was caught standing next to Alexis Henderson, who is a cheerleader but also a goody goody.” Now this is just unnecessary. Like, what does this mean? What does that have to do with it? Can anyone explain this to me? I’m still confused.
9. “But, of course, it’s easy to like any girl who’s not part of your world. The moment she slides into an ex-boyfriend’s orbit, we all have the same instinct: destroy.” Oh right, of course! Because hating other women is NORMAL!
10. In which she makes fun of Matt’s best friend because he is TOTALLY off limits to any girl’s prying, slutty eyes, even his heartbroken BFF’s: “I close my eyes, almost a wince. Yeah, poor girl, breakups are rough, boo-hoo. But this is the same girl Matt said he loves. Used to love. Whatever.”
11. “I’m not jealous. I’m… Annoyed. I know girls like her. As soon as Matt’s not around, the gloves will come off.” Yay! Because girls come in kinds!
But we’re not done with how bad this book is. No, on top of all that, the characters suck. CLEARLY, Reagan is a tumor upon humanity, and we’re stuck inside her head for 350 pages. Kill. Me. How did I finish this book? Anyway, that’s not the only reason she made me want to try to flush this book down the toilet. (Although it’s the biggest, obviously. How much worse can you get? She didn’t murder anyone…that I’m aware of. *insert Law & Order dun-dun here*)
She’s also super vain. (There is a difference between vain and confident. One is good and one is bad. For this review, at least, the difference is whether you try to build others up or just yourself.) There’s a moment where she refuses to laugh at her best friend’s joke because she wants to look prettyyyyy on national TV. COME ON.
Beyond that moment of vanity, Reagan talks about how she’s pretty all the time. But I like when girls compliment themselves (ain’t it tough, ladies? #society) so I’m not going to press it. She is also a straight up bad friend to Dee. Despite her attempts to tell the reader otherwise, there’s a weird anger toward Dee’s fame going on throughout the whole thing. I’m not a fan. SUPPORT. OTHER. GIRLS. REAGAN.
I already talked about how boring Matt is. Beyond that…Dee is bubblegum sweet. Nothing else to her. And there are literally no other characters. This book made me stir crazy. Props to Emery Lord for making me really feel like I was trapped on tour with the same unchanging people and COULD NOT ESCAPE NO MATTER WHAT. Wait, what? That’s not the point of the book? This is supposed to be a fun contemporary, not a YA version of The Shining?
Otherwise…there’s a weird thing where people call Dee “little lady” all the time. Didn’t like that. Is that a thing, people who may be reading this who are from the Southern United States?
Bottom line: It all comes down to how vicious the girl hating is in this book. Emery Lord, I’m giving you one more try, since I already own The Start of Me and You. BUT I’M NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.