Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster
Borrowed from our library.
Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move across the country and needs Amy to get their car from California to Connecticut. There's just one small problem: Since her dad died this past Spring, Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger, the nineteen-year-old 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 what Amy had planned on this trip. And traveling the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado mountains, crossing the Kansas plains, and visiting diners, dingy motels, and Graceland were definitely not on the intinerary. But as they drive, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you may need the most - and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.
We try to go into every book wanting to like it, but we have to admit we were a little predisposed not to on this one. The cover was the problem: the road behind the characters illustrates the road trip aspect nicely, but the hand-holding turned us off. A new romance on a 4-day road trip? Seriously? Can't we just have a journey of self-discovery without the whole boy-girl thing thrown in?

Oh, judge ye not a book by its cover! The relationship between Amy and Roger (and we're not sayin' what kind of a relationship it is), is certainly central to the story, and pivotal in the way both of them deal with their respective baggage, but this is definitely not one of 'those' stories.

Amy, her mother and her brother are coping with her father's death differently, but each in a way that distances them from each other. Amy is basically going through the motions of life right now. She doesn't drive, she doesn't socialize, she just wears the same clothes and eats from the same plate day after day. It is going to take something special to break through and let her enjoy life again.

As the jacket cover says, enter Roger. His issues are not as serious as Amy's, but until he deals with them, he isn't going to be able to move forward either. Through the trip (which lasts a bit more than the four days), they go from complete strangers (playing Spud when they were six does not count) to friends, meeting others who contribute in small ways to the healing process. This part alone prompted a huge discussion with the favorite teen (who read the book in two hours straight, part of that in the car by the light of her cell phone because she couldn't put it down), about the little things we do that may have a huge impact we never know about.

While the story itself can stand on its own, we also learn quite a bit about each state (and no, it does not in any way feel like an educational novel) through its diners, fast food places, and roadside attractions. A little disappointed that they missed our neck of the woods and we didn't get to shout out "Allsup's!" - but hey, maybe the next trip. Much of this part of the story is told in scrapbook form, with copies of receipts, playlists, and notes on state mottoes sprinkled throughout. Pay attention to the flotsam, particularly the dates - we almost missed that one! Nicely done!

This book is full of so much 'goodness', such great character development, perfect pacing, balance of laughter and seriousness, we don't feel like we're reviewing it halfway properly. Guess we're just not as good with words as Matson! Even what would be tired old scenarios in another book, like discovering the only room available has but one bed, somehow seem fresh and new here. Particularly impressive when we realize this is her first novel! We can't wait to read more, and give this a definite

5 out of 5.

NOTE: This book has been nominated for the Cybils award - have you placed your nominations yet? Just 10 more days to get over to Cybils.com and put them in!

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