So I’ve read a lot of books so far this year. I’ve read 16 debut titles. I’ve listened to 10 or so audiobooks. But you know, very little this year has really made me want to drop everything and read straight on through. To be fair, I’m not generally someone who gets that way. I like to read with breaks to absorb and think.
But, I may have found a book that for the first time in a long time made me want to do nothing more than sit outside in the backyard and read. Yes, I ADORED Morgan Matson’s debut Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, due out tomorrow by Simon & Schuster.
Amy’s mother and her father were professors at a local southern California college until a terrible accident took the life of her father. Because of the memories and because of a brother who is decaying slowly mentally, mom chooses to uproot her and Amy and have a new start in Connecticut.
Because of the need to sell the house, mom heads out first and leaves Amy to make the trip out to Connecticut with her mom’s car later. And no worries – mom’s best friend’s son, Roger (who had been a friend of Amy’s when they were young, though she doesn’t seem to recall the diaper days) will accompany her. Oh, and Amy’s mom’s already set up an itinerary, complete with hotel reservations. It’ll be a quick 4-day trip. Roger’s got to get to see his dad in Philadelphia, anyway, so it all works out well.
That is, until Amy sees that Roger’s a much more interesting (ahem, attractive) boy than she previously imagined. And Roger wants more of an adventure. It takes little convincing to get Amy to drop her mother’s plans and take her own cross country trip with Roger.
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was all I love in a romance: great character development, with strong enough ancillary characters to make the destinations and backstories interesting. The road facts sprinkled throughout the story made my traveling heart thump like crazy (when they are driving on Highway 50 through Nevada, before Roger talks about the road’s reputation, I had myself thinking isn’t that the most deserted highway in the country and badabing, he brought it up!). On their travels, they meet some interesting people who are never developed too much to make them clutter the story line, and throughout, it’s so clear that the story is less about the road trip and more about the power we all have as individuals to plot our own destiny.
Of course, there are consequences for those decisions. Amy’s mother is NOT happy with the way her daughter decided to ignore the plans, but Amy’s musings about the value of determining her own happiness was so spot on. Both Amy and Roger are believable in their ages, as she is about 17 and he is 18 or 19. They both exude such passion for life and for living. And like all people that age, their philosophical musings are spot on.
Matson writes young. By that I mean this story has SUCH appeal to a teen audience — it never once talks down to them nor never tries to push a higher point too much (even though it is so there). Some other books I’ve read this year have tried too hard to tug at the teen heartstrings, but this one just gets it. It never once feels forced.
Now, don’t believe this is an easy road trip book. I’ve left out a key ingredient to the story, and that’s the cause of Amy’s father’s death and the real reason Roger is accompanying her on the trip. It is very obvious the entire time what happened, but because it is so ingrained in Amy’s personality, it’s an important element. Again, not overdone and painted quite realistically.
Hand Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour to your Sarah Dessen fans. Hand it to your fans of road trip books. What this book really, really reminded me of, though, was the last 20 minutes of Elizabethtown. Do with that what you will.
An element I didn’t mention this book contains and sets it apart is what I’ll call “elements from the road.” This book is like a scrapbook, filled with postcards, receipts, itineraries, maps, and more. These not only break up the text (which is incredibly fast paced) but it gives a real face to Amy and Roger. Since my review is from the unfinished galley, I couldn’t get the full effect but instead saw the designer’s notes. The notes lead me to believe that this will be a really strong and memorable element to the novel itself.
I would, without a doubt, have read 500 more pages of this story. I think Matson does her readers a huge service in ending where she does, though. I don’t want to spoil it, but some of the hints I got lead me to believe that there would be an ending I would be dissatisfied with. Kudos.
I’m not usually one for posting videos, but this one gives a little more insight into the writing process from the author. As I watched it, I was reminded a lot of who I pictured Amy as, and I think Matson may be pulling a lot from her own life and experiences. This is a good thing. You can also get a sneak peak at some of the road ephemera that appears in the book:
Get this in the hands of your summer readers. Without doubt, it’ll become a favorite.
* Review copy from publisher at PLA.