Friday, November 30, 2012

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

Book: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

It was supposed to be a simple road trip. A cross-country trek for the purpose of getting the family car from California to Connecticut, carefully charted out by Amy's mother for maximum speed. Still numb from her father's recent death and the sudden changes in her life, Amy doesn't make a peep of protest, even when she's saddled with an unwelcome co-pilot in the person of her mom's friend's college-age son. Fine. Whatever. Someone else to do the driving.

Then Roger suggests a detour. Which turns into a bigger detour. Then they're off the map entirely, and journeying through all the dark places in their own hearts, with nothing to hold on to but each other.

So, this book was not what I was expecting. (I say that a lot in this blog. I like the books that surprise me.) I thought it would be a cute road-trip romp, with hijinks, and maybe wildlife, and definitely smooching. I didn't expect this quiet, reflective book, shimmering with pain, which gets worse before it gets better. (Okay, fine, there was smooching, too, and more. Just in case you were wondering.)

The road-trip-as-emotional-journey metaphor is a classic for a reason. You get out of your rut, you see new things, and of course, you change yourself, so that by the time you get back to your regular life you're able to see it more clearly. While the title references both Amy and Roger, this is really Amy's book. Roger has his own arc--a relationship that ended badly, some closure sorely needed--but Amy is front and center. We see her almost catatonic at the beginning, unable to muster up the energy to care about anything. As they trek on, encountering places and things that were special to her dad, we're treated to flashbacks that slowly assemble themselves into a picture of how Amy's dad died and why she's laboring under so much guilt. We also see her come back to life, learning to enjoy it again and also to accept what happened.

I couldn't decide whether I was disappointed or not by the source of Amy's guilt. On the one hand, she wasn't directly responsible for his death. A car ran a red light and slammed into the car she was driving, with her dad in the passenger seat. In some ways, it felt as if she was blowing it up far too big. On the other, that's precisely what she needed to realize. It was one of those horrible, awful things that happen sometimes. Living, really living, isn't a betrayal of the person you loved--it's a tribute.

I really, really wanted to go on a road trip after reading this book, and also download pretty much the entire soundtrack (chapters are punctuated by mixes assembled by the characters).

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