Review first published 27/03/12
Following her father’s death, Amy Curry has been living alone in the family home in California whilst the house is in the process in being sold, but her mother now wants her to join her in Connecticut and bring the family car with her. The problem is Amy hasn’t driven since her father’s death. The solution… Roger Sullivan, the son of one her mother’s friends will drive her there.
But when Amy and Roger decide to deviate from her mother’s planned route, a cross country adventure of self-discovery begins which will lead to Amy and Roger confronting their respective pasts alongside the pleasures of meeting new people and diner cuisine alongside the perils of shared hotel beds, college parties and different tastes in music.
As somebody who has never lived in or visited North America, I have had a fascination with wanting to take a road trip – Route 66, Diners, Baseball and all. So, until I get that lottery win, books such as these are the nearest thing that I’ll get for now.
The problem for me was that this book was both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.
On the one hand, I had a real sense of taking the road trip alongside Amy and Roger. This is due to two reasons – Morgan Matson’s wonderfully descriptive prose which takes the reader from the mountains of Yosemite, through the deserts and lonely roads of Arizona and the greenery of the states of Kentucky alongside the gimmick of Amy’s diary entries, photographs, diner and hotel receipts.
The other positive is the characters that Matson creates. Written in the first person from Amy’s perspective, she is well and truly the heartbeat of the story as you experience her friendship with Roger, the experience of meeting new people who shape her eventual personality along the journey, the battle with her mother for a sense of control in her life – which culminates in the act of rebellion against her mother, and the pain of the joy that she lost when her father died.
Roger is a likeable character who fall into the bracket of being “nice”. He comes across as a bit of a doormat when it comes to the description of his relationship with his girlfriend, Hadley, but the real magic comes when his interactions with Amy are described from Amy’s point of view. You get a sense of a relationship arc building from strangers into it’s eventual outcome via games of “20 questions”, discussions of their relative lifestyles, friendships… even musical tastes. It’s predictable fare, but it’s nicely written.
The supporting cast are all of the late teenage age bracket and are varied, but all serve a purpose in opening Amy up to living again, including as the clothes-horse university student Bronwyn, Roger’s college buddy, Drew, along with fellow golf course employee and amateur musician, Walcott, and Hadley’s brother, Lucien. They are the ones who, along with Roger, end up putting the Humpty Dumpty that is Amy’s life back together again.
Now for the downsides. Firstly, the pacing felt uneven for my liking with the first and last third of the book being easy to read and were paced at a level where I was eager to move on to find what happens next. The was partly down to the regular changes in location and partly down to the fact that you were constantly finding out new things about Amy and Roger. However, the middle – particularly when Amy and Roger visit Kansas – plodded a little for my liking and I was bordering on giving up this book. I have to admit though that I was glad that I didn’t, in retrospect.
Secondly, and I don’t know if this was particular to the Kindle edition, but there were quite a few typos and punctuation problems which slowed me down a little bit as I had to re-read certain parts of the book again to get the meaning of the sentences concerned.
Finally, the ending. In some respects, I felt a little robbed by how the book ended. As a reader, I felt like I had travelled alongside Amy and Roger in their journey from California to Connecticut and I admit that I fell in love with these two characters. However, once Roger arrived at Philadelphia and Amy neared Connecticut, you don’t get a feeling of a completion of their respective journeys and there’s a feeling that there are some loose ends that could have done with being wrapped up.
Do Roger and Amy stay together after their road trip?
How do the changes in Amy affect the way that she interacts with her mother, especially as Roger and the people she meets on her journey help her gain a sense of closure following her father’s death through helping her realise that the accident which claimed her father’s life was simply that… an accident?
Finally, what were the consequences that Amy’s mother alluded to, beyond stopping Amy’s credit card part way through the journey?
Maybe I’m reading too much into this and maybe it’s a case of the book being more about the journey rather than the destination, but I would have liked to see more of what happened after the journey ended especially when you invest so much emotion with these characters.
Rating: 3/5 (But a solid 3/5)
If you would like to find out more about Morgan Matson and her books, please visit her site.