Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

I've always loved to travel, but for the most part all of the traveling I have done has been with family. This isn't necessarily a bad way to see the world, but it does often mean that you end up seeing someone else's impression of it. That can be a shame, because the truth is we all see the world differently.

Roger and Amy's Epic Detour came highly recommended by my friend Marie over at Ramblings of a Daydreamer. We have liked similar books before, so I tend to trust Marie's taste. And once again, her suggestion did not disappoint. Between the well developed, believable and extremely likable lead characters, the fun, fascinating and quirky journey, the slow building romance and the great little touches throughout the book, like photos, playlists and receipts, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is just that little bit different enough from everything else to stand out, while retaining the level of quality storytelling it takes to keep me interested.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
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.

Morgan Matson has perfectly captured the heart and soul, the very essence and spirit, of the road trip. As I listened to Amy and Roger preparing to travel from California to Connecticut I was reminded of the many times that I have traveled by van from Ontario to Florida, or Alberta, with either my grandparents or my parents. The need for music? The desire to capture memories along the way, even though the placed passed on the open road are the 'journey' rather then the destination? The need for snacks? The wonder over what lies just beyond a highway? The energy of all of these things seemed to leap off the page and grab me.

Except this isn't a trip with mom and dad or grandma and grandpa. This is a journey of growth, discovery and healing for our hero and heroine, and they do not have someone directly dictating the route that they take. (Which drives Amy's mom crazy, but I'll get to that...) Amy and Roger do not follow the directions and instructions left for them, but rather take the journey at their own place, making their own stops. The mix of rebellion, growth, need, discovery and hope that comes from this decision is felt from start to finish.

I loved the fact that the places they visited were out of the way; things that not everyone has necessarily seen or heard of. Yosenite, the loneliest highway, and Graceland all instantly come to mind here. I also love the variety of characters we meet as the story goes on. The fact that these people stand out even though our time with each is short shows that Morgan Matson has a real gift of quickly establishing a character and ensuring that the reader will connect with them. I know, that might sound kind of strange to have in the plot section. But in a book of this nature, the quality of character building is really a make it or break it thing.

My one huge complaint with the plot for Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is what Amy's mother does when she finds out that they are not following the schedule she left. She's protective of Amy; I get that. But without the pre-preparation that Morgan did to set up the plot for this twist, Amy and Roger would have been lost in the middle of America with no lodgings, food, etc. and the mother was not aware that Amy had what she did. It seemed to contradict itself and made me really dislike her mother a lot.

The Characters: 

I felt that I could really understand Amy. I've never lost a parent -- thank God -- but I recall very vividly how lost that I felt when my grandpa died when I was 14. I went through several months where my absent-mindedness and lack of focus actually ended up stigmatizing me to some teachers during the entire time I was in high school. Amy needs to find a way to face her grief, and to realize that there is a difference between being alive and living. I think that Morgan did a great job of using the road trip to parallel Amy's journey to (the beginning of) healing.

Roger is dealing with loss too, in this case of his manipulative ex-girlfriend, Hadley. I liked the fact that we saw both characters going on their own little 'missions' that helped them grow through their problems. I also think that it was clever how each character grew through the other's situations, not just their own. Roger seemed like a very real, down to earth, likable guy. I thought he had a great sense of humor and a level of sensitivity that made him appealing to me without taking away from the fact that he is a guy. (Not that guys cannot be sensitive, but when we women write them, we can cross a certain line. Fortunately that didn't happen here.)

There were many other interesting people that popped up throughout the book. It is something to Morgan's credit that characters like Bronwyn and Lucien were so memorable to me, since they are only in the book for a short period of time, before Amy and Roger are moving onto their next destination.

The Romance: 

I like many things with regard to the romance in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. In one way or another, both characters start with hearts that are empty, injured or broken. And we get to see them slowly heal, allowing the characters to become people who could actually have a hope of falling in love. The romance between them is never rushed and feels very natural. It compliments the larger plots and themes and while it enriches the novel, I never felt that it "took over". That wouldn't have worked here.

In General: 

I'm so glad that I read this book. I really enjoyed it. I don't think I've said this yet, either, but if you are an Elvis nut like me there is stuff here that will make you smile. I didn't include that in my overall rating criteria here, obviously, but it warrants mentioning. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour walks a fine line between joy and sorrow, loss and love, despair and hope, and ultimately left me feeling that no matter how dark things get, there is always hope they will one day be better. That is a beautiful message, and this book carries it across with an interesting plot, memorable characters and an interesting journey worth taking.


21 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this title before, but it sounds really good! Thanks for the review!

    Misa
    The Magic Attic Book Blog

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  2. This is the first I hear of this It sounds to have a really good story with heart! Awesome review Kathy!

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    1. Yeah, this was an absolutely fantastic read. Didn't reach near my goals for the page count challenge, but I had a good time with this book. (Taking care of grandma / keeping her 'up' takes a lot of time, but is vital to me.) Downloaded a sample from Storm and it's definitely getting read very soon. :)

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Kat! I agree that the secondary characters added a lot and were very memorable, which isn't often the case when we only get a limited chance to 'know' them. I loved the sweet, slow romance between Amy and Roger, and their journeys too. Now I want to reread the book! ;-)

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