Monday, October 22, 2012
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move all the way across the country and needs Amy to drive their car from California to the East Coast. There's just one problem: since the death of her father, Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute… and dealing with some baggage of his own.Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father's death were not part of Amy's plans for the road trip. But then neither was driving on the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado Mountains, visiting diners, dingy motels and Graceland. But as they drive, and she grows closer to Roger, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you need the most - and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.
I'm on a massive YA contemporary roll at the moment and, unwilling to stop, picked this from my tbr pile. I bought it on a whim earlier this year when book shopping with Liz and when I took it to the counter the bookseller enthused about it - it was her favourite book of last year. Last week I mentioned YA books that contain characters with bone-deep regrets were hard to come by. Just to prove me wrong in walks Amy Curry - she's living alone in California and her family home is on the market. Her mum is in Connecticut where's she's got a new house for Amy and her brother, Charlie (when he's free to travel). Now it's time for Amy to head there too but she can't drive anymore after an accident that killed her dad. Roger is brought in to do the driving but he's not too happy about the rigid itinerary that's been set for them so they decide to take a bit of a detour …
What I love about this book is that it isn't just the main character that has a journey to go on. Roger has his own difficulties to overcome - they both have baggage. His is in the form of Hadley, his college ex-girlfriend whom he thought he loved. She won't return his calls and Roger has to decide how to come to terms with the break up. Amy is struggling under a burden of crippling guilt and grief. The author cleverly sets Amy against an imaginary ideal version of herself (Amy! - yes, with an exclamation mark) - the perfect girl who knows what to do in every situation. Amy! is impossible to live up to - especially when normal Amy's just a shell of the person she was before her father died. Ever since the accident her mum has been distant and they've all had to face up to the problem with Charlie. Everywhere she turns there's conflict and sorrow - it's a lot to sort out on a short road trip.
But here's the beauty of Epic Detour. It doesn't promise that Amy will be all shiny and new by the end of the book - how could that be? Her life experiences have changed her unalterably but she's unable to allow herself to grieve or even take comfort from anyone. So, when two damaged people take to the road their journey is touching and there are miracles in small things such as bright starlit nights and the healing power of good take-aways. I know the latter sounds shallow but it really isn't if you've been eating nothing but cold pizza for a month and your hair is falling out. Along the way they meet interesting, life-changing people - the sort who don't realise how much they've meant to you at a certain stage in your life, the ones you never forget.
I haven't even mentioned the cute playlists, state information and receipts that make up this book. I now have a new favourite genre - the YA Contemporary Road Trip.