Friday, August 5, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

I always enjoy reading road trip books while we’re on a road trip, so I had saved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson for our June trip through California.  I absolutely loved this warm, unique novel and even found myself reading passages aloud and showing pages to my two teen sons (who are not normally interested in a book with a picture of a girl and boy holding hands on its cover!).  In the classic tradition of all good road trip books, this one is not only about the physical journey but an emotional one as well.

Amy hasn’t been the same since her Dad died this past spring.  Her mom has decided to move them from California to Connecticut, and Amy is expected to join her on the East Coast as soon as she finishes her junior year of high school.  The problem is that Amy hasn’t driven since her dad’s death, so her mother enlists the help of the 19-year old son of a friend of hers to drive Amy to Connecticut.

Amy barely remembers Roger from when they were kids and is embarrassed by her inability to drive.  Though Roger seems like a well-adjusted guy, he is struggling with some issues of his own.  Together, they set out on their cross-country drive, following Amy’s mother’s planned route at first.  Soon, though, the pull of the open road entices them to make a detour that turns into…yes, an epic detour.  One of my favorite parts of the book was when they decided to visit Yosemite National Park, just as we were heading there ourselves, and I could follow along!

This is really two books in one – a scrapbook-style travelogue with photos, receipts, postcards, and other memorabilia interspersed with a novel describing how Amy and Roger both gradually open up to each other and face their own demons.  It could have turned out kind of gimmicky, but it’s not at all because it works so well on both levels.  It’s a well-written novel, warm and real, that is made even better by the travelogue. 

One of the highlights of the book for me was Roger’s Playlists, scattered throughout the book.  I do the same thing on our family road trips – make up custom CDs suited to wherever we are traveling – so I had a blast reading through Roger’s music choices and sharing the playlists with my sons.  In fact, now that I have the book back in my hands (we shipped a box of books back home after our trip), I can’t wait to look up some of Roger’s more obscure songs and listen to them myself.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is a wonderful novel that addresses difficult topics in an accessible way.  The road trip is not merely background but an integral part of the journey.  It is described in wonderful detail that makes you feel as if you are riding along, discovering both the country and yourself along with Amy and Roger.

NOTE: for some extra fun, check out Roger's Playlist #1 on YouTube, a collection of 18 songs from Roger's first playlist in the book which someone has thoughtfully compiled

343 pages, Simon & Schuster


Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

This totally sounds like a book I would like and I bet I can think of some girls at my school who would like it, too. Can you read while you ride in a car? I can't. Guess that half explains my love of audiobooks.

Sue Jackson said...

Anne -

No! I can't read at all in the car - maybe a little magazine flipping but not reading an actual book. We always listen to audios on our road trips, and I usually just read at bedtime.


Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

I finished the book and absolutely loved it!!!! Thanks for the recommendation. I had fun listening to snippets of the songs from the playlist, too, though most weren't my style. I will be recommending this book to my students this Fall.

My Head if Full of Books