March 11, 2011

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

 Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

 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.

Bags packed? Check.
Full tank of gas? Check.
Provisions of snacks? Check.
Tunes? Check
Random cute boy driving you across the country? Check.

What a GREAT list to make, right? That’s basically the premise of Morgan Matson’s debut novel, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. And how epic it was! I loved how this book sucks you in right from the beginning and won’t let you do anything until you’ve finished it. Filled with song lists and food and hotel receipts along the way and insights on the various states via Amy Curry’s travel journal, you begin to take seriously the gems of wisdom she passes along:  

“If you’re driving through Indiana with Roger, don’t ever let him tell you about the movie, Hoosiers. YOU WILL REGRET THIS.”

Amy is battling some emotional demons as she embarks on a cross-country drive from California to Connecticut. Her promise to join her relocated mother in their new home by driving her Jeep Liberty out with the help of Roger Sullivan spurs her on. Roger is the son of her mom’s friend and is on the way to Philadelphia to spend the summer with his dad. At first Amy is closed off and just wants to get the trip over with but after a few initial detours it is evident that Amy and Roger begin to share much more than just a ride. Through it all, Amy encounters different people that help her through her emotional turmoil. From the eccentric and bubbly Bronwyn, who updates Amy’s wardrobe to the mysterious MUZ who sends her to a place of emotional epiphany at a Dairy Queen in Richmond, Virginia. Throughout the road trip we get chapters and snippets of the event that lead up to Amy’s torment and how it changed her relationship with her family. As that onion is slowly peeled back we get to see Amy’s emotional load lighten. I usually don’t really like plot points told in a flashback but in this book it’s done incredibly well. Those chapters are short, just mere snippets and just when you start getting into the meat of it, the story changes back to what’s going on with Amy and Roger. Morgan Matson is able to use this device to keep us intrigued about Amy’s past and the event but it doesn’t leave us frustrated and actually makes us glad to get back on the road with Roger. 

Roger, as a character, seems fairly one-dimensional as the story is told from Amy’s point of view. Other than his odd dumb guy pining for his ex girlfriend, he really doesn’t show much depth for most of the novel. However, what he does add to the story is a sweet sensitive, sometimes conflicted partner to Amy and as he brings her out of her doldrums you recognize his importance as a catalyst of healing for her. You see Amy encounter all these other people throughout the trip that she opens up to and you want to scream at her to talk to Roger and it’s not until the very end that she realizes his vital role in her healing heart. That his role was secured at the beginning of their trip when they made their first vital detour to Yosemite. Roger is a defining moment for her and their moments together and their banter are priceless. You won’t be able to get enough of them together. 
Ultimately, this is a very sweet story of a fun trip with two people who get to know each other better over the course of a few days. But to merely write it off as just that would be unfair to the brilliant writing and storytelling that Morgan Matson demonstrates in her debut novel. Her use of music and landmarks along the way helps the reader really visualize the journey and by the end of it if you walk away with nothing else from the novel itself, you will have a great list of new music and a strange craving for roadside diner pancakes, greasy burgers, and cream soda.

And if you don’t smile at least 1654654651654 times while reading, then you are probably dead inside. Or maybe you are not a fan of cute warm-fuzzy coming-of-age stories in which case, why are you even reading my review of this book?

Why i do believe my Inner Monologue has made an appearance. Um..yes disembodied voice in my head, what can I do for you? I’m kind of busy right now, you know, writing a book review, can this wait until later?
- I just wanted to point out to you that in your previous paragraph there you insulted the fine readers of this respectable award-winning blog. You might want to rethink your words up there. Just saying.
I am totally being called out right now...this is so embarrassing. Listen, everyone out there reading *waves at readers* knows that this is totally my stream-of-consciousness writing style and they know that I basically regurgitate everything in my head without much of a filter. Trust me, they GET it.
-Well, I’m just not sure they’ll be able to take you seriously, which brings to point, are you ever going to review a book you DIDN’T like?
What? What do you mean? Why would I do that?
-Well, everyone is just going to think you loooooove everything you read, which I know isn’t true because you’ve flounced books before.
SHhhhhh, you stop NOW, Inner Monologue, I really don’t need you to screw this up for me now.

*stuffs Inner Monologue in the far recesses of mind*

Where were we? Oh yes, so why did I love this book so much (enough to rank it up there with Anna and the French Kiss)? I really appreciated the whimsy of this, the carefree youth of exploration and discovery (which is a running theme) just made me a bit wistful. If you are older and feel like you’ve experienced it all, this book will bring you back to a simpler time in your life where the things that weighed on your mind the most didn’t deal with mortgages, API scores or borderline hypertension. And honestly? I love road trips. I love the serenity in the car while cruising at 70 miles per hour down stretches of lonely desolation only to find an oasis in a questionably hygienic roadside diner where you will experience the greasiest grimiest food ever to hit your upper digestive track. After finishing the book you really feel like you’ve not just read about their Epic Detour but that you’ve been on it yourself. Go ahead, indulge in this fun read. You won’t regret it. Unless you are dead inside. 
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is Morgan Matson’s brilliant first novel. Look for more from her in the near future. I am Jeannie and if you’ve learned anything by now, you can see that I am quite random. If you are a fan of randomness in all things please stop by and chat with me on Twitter. Fair warning, I can talk about books, Glee and all things Twilight until my keyboard blows up into an oblivion.

Happy Reading,


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