Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Simon & Schuster, 2011 (2010)
Amy Curry's year sucks. And it's not getting any better. Her mother has decided to move, so somehow Amy has to get their car from California to the East Coast. There's just one problem: since her father's death Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of a family friend, who turns out to be funny, nice... and unexpectedly cute.
But Roger's plans involve a more "scenic" route that just driving from A to B, so suddenly Amy finds herself on the road trip of a lifetime. And, as she grows closer to Roger, Amy starts to realise that sometimes you have to get lost to find your way home...
I'll get it out of the way right at the start: I loved this book.
It popped up in my Goodreads recommendations a few weeks ago, and I added it without much thought. When my library copy arrived, I flipped to the first page and saw that it was a copy of a school report card.
Ever since I was young, I have always loved books with extra things thrown in. Maps at the beginning of books are a sure-fire way to draw me in. As a kid, my favourite parts of the Babysitters' Club books were the "handwritten" diary entries. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour has all this and more: maps, receipts, photos, emails, postcards and notes. My inner twelve year old was very happy.
Of course, none of this means anything if the book isn't up to much, but happily it was. I liked Amy instantly: battered by her father's death, she is hiding out from the world, a shadow of her former outgoing self. Her relationships with her mother and brother are fractious and fragile, and for the month before the book opens, she's been rattling around their family home, dreading the move to Connecticut that her mother has engineered.
Enter Roger, and enter road trip. Road trips are another of my favourite devices in books, and this one didn't disappoint. Roger, although erring at times on the side of so-nice-its-unreal, was fleshed out enough that I didn't feel like he was just the generic crush in the driver's seat. In fact, the way Amy and Roger's friendship develops was one of my favourite parts of the book. Although the timeline of the book is short, they were neither instant best friends nor (thankfully) instant enemies. Instead, Matson portrays them as both hurting in their own way, and both in need of a friend.
The romance element is reasonably subdued, which I actually enjoyed. There were some rather predictable moments (oh-no-there's-only-one-bed being perhaps the worst), but the story and the writing were compelling enough that it actually didn't bother me. This book is really about Amy dealing with the death of her father, and it was genuinely, heart-breakingly sad in some parts. (The postcard was the final straw for me, tears-wise.) But it was also a glorious, headlong adventure, and although I was desperate for it not to end so I could see how it all turned out, it probably ended at exactly the right moment.
Overall rating: 9/10
Book source: Borrowed from the local library.