Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review of Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic DetourWhat attracted me to Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was the fact that it's a road trip book--I can't remember ever reading a road trip book before, and there's magic in the property of novelty. I'm not sure how I would feel about this book if I were more experienced with road trip stories, and I can't judge it on those terms. What I can say, is that it was an okay YA story and a compulsively readable story.

Amy's father died in a car crash. She was the one driving, and she blames herself for his death and all of the subsequent fallout. Her mother decides that the whole family needs a fresh start, so she moves to Connecticut. Amy now has the task of getting herself, and her mom's car, from California to Connecticut. Amy isn't driving since the accident, so Roger (an distant friend of the family), agrees to drive her. At first Amy is eager to get the trip over with in as few days as possible, but as she and Roger start to talk, she thinks perhaps a small detour is in order.

When I say this was a page-turner, I don't so much mean that it was suspenseful or even particularly eventful, because it really wasn't. The pace is rather easy going, nothing much happening, just like a real road trip. But just like a real road trip, you find it necessary and pleasant to just keep going, see where the book takes you, what might happen next. The tone is completely perfect in that respect. One of the things that helped, I think, was the inclusion of pictures, receipts, and playlists throughout--it made me feel like I was part of the trip.

Amy's emotional journey is surprisingly touching and believable. Her father's death is still raw in her mind, and she's got a lot to work through. Not only can she no longer drive, but she can't bring herself to speak of her father in any capacity. Watching her work through some of her issues and start to heal was rewarding, and it kind of helped elevate the book from bland to engaging.

There were a few times when I became a bit frustrated with Amy's youth, in terms of the decisions she makes and how she handles her relationship with her mother, her brother, and getting what she wants. For example, she's too immature and inexperienced to figure out a way to communicate her needs and feelings to her mother, so instead she just dodges her calls. Yes, that's probably exactly how a seventeen year old would try to get away with taking an extended road trip, but the mere fact that she had to get away with it in the first place was a bit distracting.

The romance aspect of the book was fairly lacking. In the first place, Roger spends a good chunk of the book hung up on his very-recently-ex girlfriend. Once he does start to move past it, well, to be honest I just didn't feel a whole lot of chemistry between Amy and Roger, romantically speaking. They have friendship chemistry, which in reality can be a very good place from which to start a relationship. The problem is, they are about to be geographically separated, so for me the odds of that romantic chemistry developing, for real, seem slim. Without giving away too much about the ending, I'll just say that I found it somewhat less optimistic and satisfying than I think the author intended.

This is a great book to pass the time with. It would make an excellent beach book or long plane ride book or waiting at the DMV book. It's not a book where a lot happens or a book with any big messages, but it's very readable and mostly very happy, and so I recommend it on that score. 3.5 stars.

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