May 4, 2010; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is, on the surface, a tale of two teens driving across the country. But really it's about two teens' journeys to discover themselves and ultimately, each other. I've had incredible luck with contemporary fiction lately, and Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is one of the best. Part armchair travel, part snarky, witty dialogue, part romance, part self-discovery, and part scrapbook. A unique and fun novel.
Amy's voice makes the book. Mourning the recent death of her father, for which she blames herself, Amy is subdued and depressed. This doesn't sound like the formula for a great narrator, but Amy's dour attitude is expressed in black humor and snarky criticisms. I had loads of fun seeing the world through her dark eyes. My favorite quote in the book came in the first few pages [warning, bad language]:
Enter Roger, the childhood friend she doesn't really remember who has been assigned to drive cross-country with her to Amy's new home in Connecticut. Starting in California, the duo slowly meander their way across the country. I loved how the story featured two characters who didn't know each other. It made it so much more interesting than a tale of old friends. Ironically, when talking to a new friend it can some times be easier to let your guard down than with a person who's known you forever and can put every statement you make into context. Not that Amy and Roger immediately start bearing their souls. No - it's a slow get-to-know-you process mostly played through Twenty Questions. But there's a different feeling than with old friends."I could practically hear Mr. Collins, who had taught my fifth grade English class and was still the most intimidating teacher I'd ever had, yelling at me. 'Amy Curry,' I could still hear him intoning, 'never end a sentence with a preposition!' Irked that after six years he was still mentally correcting me, I told the Mr. Collins in my head to off f*ck."
I love Roger. I would totally date him. He's different than a lot of YA heroes who have strong personalities. He's a nice guy, but not bend-over-backwards nice. A funny guy, but not unrealistically witty. A strong guy, but one who lets his ex-girlfriend string him along. He's romantic in a laid-back way. He feels like a real person. Best of all, for this story, he's the perfect counterpoint to Amy's dourness. He is mostly upbeat and is great at prodding Amy to reveal more of herself without becoming annoying. I loved seeing how their friendship slowly developed. Their relationship never feels like insta-love, even though the book only takes place over the course of a week. You can get to know each other really well when stuck together for 24 hours a day.
A highlight of this book is the scrapbook format. Interspersed with the writing are pages of scrapbook material: journal entries with witty and factual comments about each state, receipts, playlists, and more. I've never read another book that incorporated non text material so well (with the exception of the poetry in The Sky is Everywhere).
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is a fabulous book. There's only a few things that keep me from giving it a perfect rating. I thought certain issues at the end where resolved far too quickly to be real. Plus, it's hard for me to imagine a good mother leaving her teenage daughter alone in California for a few months and then expecting her to drive cross country to their new home with a teenage boy she barely knows - especially only a few months after the girl's beloved father has died. And one pet peeve...Amy and Roger are such anachronistic names. The characters were probably born around 1992 and 1994. Amy is predominantly a name from the 1970s and 1980s, although I'm sure there are still a few little Amy's running around. But who names their kid Roger anymore? That's a throwback to the 1950s.
You must read Amy and Roger's Epic Detour . You will laugh, you will smile, you will cringe, you will squeal. Not 100% perfect, but one of the best contemporary fiction novels I've read in quite awhile.