Although the protagonists have different connections to fame — Reagan (“Open Road Summer”) is a country/pop crossover-star’s (think Taylor Swift when she first hit it big) best friend, whereas Bonnie aka Chloe (“Something Real”) is the daughter in an a mega-family reality show — they both struggle with how fame and our 24/7 celebrity culture can warp reality into something, well, unreal, plastic, as Botoxed as Chloe’s mom’s face.
Reagan sees the price of fame in how her best friend Dee (known to her fans as Lilah Montgomery) has to hide the pain over the break-up with her one true love. Having made bad choices in her own relationships, Reagan is so jaded about fame she doesn’t really know what to make of Matt Finch, the boy band-turned-singer/songwriter who’s enlisted to fake-date Lilah. Who is Matt Finch, really? Can he be as clever, kind, and interested as he seems? Is it just an act, or is he actually deep and burying his own emotional scars? You might think you have everything figured out. That the story is going to be predictable about the romance, but it isn’t. Of course we know the “who” — it’s Reagan and Matt — but this is definitely not a case of insta-love. There are actual conversations and an extended period of flirting, getting to know each other, and eventually even the sharing of secrets and grief and favorite Bob Dylan lyrics. Matt might be hot, charming and famous, but he’s learned how to keep parts of himself hidden, just like Reagan does.
“Open Road Summer” by Emery Lord
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.
As for “Something Real” protagonist Chloe, she’s really Bonnie Baker, 1/13th of the famous “Baker’s Dozen” kids, who grew up on a reality series ala “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” After her parents’ divorce, the show got cancelled, but now that her mom is remarried, the show is going back on the air — just as Chloe was settling into her senior year of high school with good friends and an interested guy, Patrick, who, as Danielle pointed out, is one of the best “book boyfriends” in YA. Chloe HATES the idea of being back on the air, having cameras intrude on her life again, and of making the paparazzi descend like vultures to carrion. Everyone around her seems to think the fame has its perks. Her gorgeous sister Lexie doesn’t mind being branded the “sexy one,” her Barbie doll of a mother is fit and 40 and ready to be camera ready at all times if it means a comfortable life of luxury. But Chloe, and to a lesser extent her brother Benton (who’s not-so-secretly gay and dating his best friend), aren’t interested in anything but a future that involves a home — not a set — and a family not a cast.
“Something Real” by Heather Demetrios
Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.
I could go on and on about each book (both, coincidentally, are debut novels), but I just wanted to share how I impressed I was with these two contemps, their takes on celebrity, and their authentic, heart-warming romances.
Also, listen to the “Something Real” playlist!