“Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew–just in time for Amy’s senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she’s surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road–diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards–this is the story of one girl’s journey to find herself.”
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour Review
Given that this novel is from popular author Morgan Matson’s debut, it may seem an odd choice to spotlight. Let’s talk about why I’m featuring it. Recently it’s been popping up again on various Booktube channels (a popular Youtube scene in the YA community) I watch. Since I did have it on my shelf, I picked it up, read a few pages and the rest (as they say) is history. It may be a novel five years old, but it’s a journey well worth discovering no matter its age. The beginning of the novel is near perfection. Ordinarily I’m not the biggest advocate of a book that confines its story to two characters (without opportunity to get to know anyone else), plus throw in a first-person narrative. To me, this means the book doesn’t lend itself to expanding character horizons. Anyone we meet has to be translated through Amy’s eyes which isn’t the easiest of ways to get to know a person. Morgan’s writing melts all of those possible problems away. Yes, we are kept inside Amy’s head, thoughts and inner-most emotions, but it’s such a rich characterization, I didn’t mind. This is where the novel gets off to a brilliant start.
Unfortunately, the middle felt “flat.” It dragged along during the portions when Amy and Roger take detours to see Roger’s friends and indulge Roger’s fantasy of repairing a relationship. Despite the deeper depth with more characters and room for interesting shenanigans, the middle portion of the book seemed to be a little bit of a “let down.” Up until then, the book felt more mature with many emotions playing out for Amy. In fact, I’d nearly forgotten it was a YA novel. During this section there is a backwards slip into teen’s rites of passage like college dorm parties, memories of a girl emotionally scarred making a mistake and profanity-laced rants. This seemed something less about what was good about the book’s expectation and more about meeting what was expected for the story.
The rest of the novel is pure gold, and really I am nitpicking with the middle section objections. Morgan seems to care deeply for this novel and the story is important to her. She took the experience to heart by taking a road-trip herself (documented in the back of the book via her author’s notes) applying her own first-hand knowledge to the tender story she tells. This is truly a book that’s all in the “details.” Separating chapters are playlists, receipts, photos, maps and doodles from the stops along Amy and Roger’s route. Then there are these two characters who are imagined and fleshed out remarkably well. Amy and Roger’s relationship is a quieter one to be honest. There’s not a lot of conflict and instead of trying to get her to open up and talk, Roger is just “there” for Amy. By staying with her, he offers a shoulder to cry on without saying anything. That sometimes is the most a person can do and sometimes just being there says more than a thousand words. It’s that quiet “strength” that offers so much insight into these characters and their stories.
Hitch a ride with this duo. I don’t think you’ll regret any of the detours this story takes. It’s a fabulous road trip story that invents its own kind of genre. There is plenty of fun and it’s like taking a tour across the U.S. in the traditional spirit and routes of cross-country USA.
Content note: there are a handful of f-words and an emotional scene (not explicit) involving a girl losing her virginity.
Since I haven’t seen many road trip “buddy” films, the only film or show I think might be similar to this is Crossroads, a teen comedy starring Britney Spears. Also a film I have seen that has some heart (but not the same emotional impact) is Monte Carlo. It’s not a road trip film, but it is about three girls who take a literal journey that results in some important lessons about who they are. In all, I think a film adaptation of this book would be best, because it could work similarly to these two mentioned films.
Do you have a favorite novel by Morgan Matson? Or a YA contemporary favorite in general? Share any thoughts down below!
“You had me at hello.”
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a
matter of chance.”
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Buy Here: Amazon
Author Website: Morgan Matson
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