In the months since her father’s death, Amy Curry has stumbled through life with a weight the size of her small California town on her shoulders. Without her dad there to keep everyone on track, her twin brother’s substance issues run rampant as her demanding mother refuses to acknowledge them — until she has no choice. After her mom decides to move the remaining Currys to Connecticut, Amy stays behind to finish her junior year of high school — and at the end of the school year, she’s to drive cross-country and rejoin her mom.
The only trouble? Amy can’t drive — or won’t, actually. She needs someone to accompany her on the 3,000 mile trek from coast to coast, and in steps Roger — a family friend and former neighbor, a young man who used to play basketball in the neighborhood with the Curry twins when they were small.
But they’re all grown up now — and Roger? With his golden boy good looks and tender heart, Roger becomes the perfect road trip companion. Bringing perfect iPod mixes and easy conversation, Roger agrees to drive Amy, an aspiring actress, to the East Coast in exchange for a train ticket to Philadelphia. But as Amy constantly worries, why would Roger — gorgeous, sensitive, funny Roger — agree to trek so far with a high school kid, a girl he barely knows? And what secrets and guilt of his own is Roger harboring?
Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is an engaging, touching and ultimately hopeful novel centering around one broken girl and the adventure that begins to heal her. On par with Justina Chen Headley’s North Of Beautiful, one of my favorite young adult novels, this Detour was a welcome respite from mundane, uninteresting plot points and static characters that can plague contemporary fiction.
There isn’t too much to dislike in a fast-paced, engrossing novel like this. Amy’s growth from cover to cover is astounding, culminating in all of the daring experiences she wouldn’t have even thought of attempting months before. Watching the progression of her feelings for Roger was really sweet and powerful, and it was just as clear that Roger’s affection was mutual.
At the heart of the novel is the road trip itself — unpredictable, wild. While Amy’s mom had carefully planned the entire journey from start to finish, complete with hotel reservations, Amy and Roger leap wildly off the path from the start. I loved reading about places I’ve visited through the eyes of our travelers, relishing in all the funny anecdotes (like having to stuff food or anything attractive to bears in a bear locker while camping at Yosemite) and new friendships. Roger exposes Amy to a whole world — a world outside herself — and gently tugs her from the cell of her grief. While sometimes I wanted to shake Amy, screaming that her dad’s death was not her fault, I greatly empathized with her. The trip was what she needed to escape, grow and heal.
Multi-layered and boasting a cast of memorable characters, even on the periphery, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour provided plenty of entertainment while still getting me to hastily wipe tears from my eyes. The incorporation of “real” photos from the trip — scrapbook pages, receipts, itineraries, Roger’s playlists — added another dimension of the story that really made me feel like I, too, had gone on a trip. And by the time I closed the last page, I didn’t want it to end.
Fans of young adult and realistic fiction will enjoy this fresh look at family and love, life and death, and find plenty of humorous moments to balance out the serious, often philosophical tone of the book. Not your average “road trip” novel — and that’s what I loved most about it. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up — especially not with a cover that gorgeous!
4.5 out of 5!
Personal copy purchased by Meg