Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

I picked up this book because it featured a road trip, and my husband and I have been taking road trips about every other year since we got married. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson, is a young adult novel already in hardcover but coming out in paperback in a few days, so I picked a good time to read it. It was another one of those that had been sitting on my shelf for awhile, and though I thought it would be interesting, it wasn't about shape-shifters or magic or the Apocalypse so I thought I wasn't in the mood for it. But my shelf is emptying, and my options were limited. I had to read something.

It ended up being pretty fun. Having traveled from Indiana to California and back over three weeks, it was intriguing to see another viewpoint of the trip. In the book, Amy and Roger go from California to Connecticut. They are supposed to get there in four days, following a very strict schedule Amy's mom sets for them. Amy's dad has died recently, her twin brother is in rehab, and her mom has moved them across the country. Amy finishes her junior year of high school in California on her own and then has to get the family car to Connecticut where her mom is already working. The problem is Amy doesn't drive anymore, not since the accident that killed her father. So, a college freshman friend of the family is recruited to drive for her.

But Roger and Amy decide the itinerary is too confining, and they set out on their own path, beginning a journey of healing, breaking free, and finding love.

The book incorporates black and white photos of some of the sights along the road, as well as receipts and other paper stubs that document the journey. For each state they travel through, Amy keeps a one-page journal, jotting down interesting facts like the state motto. There are also lists of each of the character's music playlists for the road with songs that mirror whatever state or mood they are going through. In some ways, it's like looking at a scrapbook of a trip you really want to take yourself. Traveling across the country is freeing and fun, but Matson, who has taken the trip three times herself, writes about two people who are suffering and need each other to get through the pain holding each of them back. That gives the story depth, and the back story of the characters is what drives them, literally, to each destination on the map. It's a clever interweaving of literal and figurative journeys.

There is one story premise, though, that I have to focus my two-bit word of caution on. I don't think it's the greatest idea in the world to put a guy and girl into a car alone together for a week. It's just asking for trouble, and sure enough, they end up in situations you should never find yourself in if you're trying to flee temptation and remain pure. In a few hotels, they not only share a room, but they share the bed, and finally, (SPOILER HERE) when they do fall in love, they spend their last night in the same room on purpose so they can have sex. The book doesn't give any details, keeping it PG, but it still sets a bad example.

I know it's only catering to the culture. I guess it's normal now for teens to have sex. I mean, it's what you do if you love someone, right? That's according to the culture, and I will never buy into it.

Here's how well I'm getting to know "young adult" fiction. I actually kind of expected it to happen eventually. It does so often in young adult fiction these days. But this book was particularly set up for it. I mean, seriously, any psychologist or even just a logical mind could tell you it was going to happen. Amy and Roger set off alone in a car together and then, right away, decided not to do what the mom wanted. Not a very smart mom, either, to put them in that situation. But real people, not just fictional characters, do things like this every day in the real world. They put themselves into situations that are begging for trouble. This one was one of the more obvious to me, and it irks me to see this kind of an example being put in front of young adults all the time under the guise of learning about yourself. There were a lot of good things Amy and Roger learned, but that shouldn't have been one of them.

I did appreciate one thing the book said about sex, although I was disappointed in the character for doing it. In a flashback, we learn that Amy went to her boyfriend after her father's funeral and had sex so that she wouldn't think about anything else. In the end, though, she realized what a mistake it was. She lost her virginity and ended up feeling completely vulnerable, the exact opposite of what she wanted to feel. There's a good lesson there.

Well, that's my rant. Other than the morality problem, I enjoyed the book and the journey it took me on. Makes me want to get on the road again myself soon.

Four stars for story, plot, and setting. Two stars for moral message.

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