Reviewed by Noelle: May 18, 2012
Published May 4, 2010 by Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
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I've read enough YA road trip themed books lately to consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject. In fact I've noticed that there are a set of rules for the Road Trip Novel--rules that if followed can overcome the cliches to make something truly special. Rules that if ignored can bring down the whole book.
First things first, a Road Trip Novel needs a believable reason for a teenager to drive across the country with a complete (but extremely hot, natch) stranger. The catalyst for the road trip can be the hardest part to pull off. Do it successfully and the readers are in for the ride and more willing to overlook the plot contrivances that make up the genre. Do it wrong and the reader wants to turn the car back around and go home.
Often times the catalyst is a life-changing event: a death in the family, leaving for college, a leisurely grand tour of Midwest tourist traps on the way to see if your kinda sorta friend was actually kidnapped or just ran away. Ahem. Like I said, some options work better than others.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour follows the first option. After the death of her father, Amy's family scatters across the country. Her brother gets shipped off to rehab, her mom takes a new job in Connecticut and Amy is all set to join her after school lets out for the summer. There's only one problem: Amy's mom needs her to drive the family car from California to Connecticut and Amy doesn't drive anymore--not since the accident.
Enter Roger, childhood neighbor home from college and en route to Philadelphia to spend the summer with his dad. And whaddya know? Roger has the requisite valid drivers license, stacked iPod and boyish good looks mandatory for the job.
Rather than follow the itinerary and booked hotel rooms set out by Amy's mother, both Amy and Roger agree for personal reasons (hers involving visiting landmarks relevant to her dad and his involving visiting landmarks relevant to his inability to get over his ex-girlfriend) to ditch the plan and go out on a detour neither will forget.
The second key to the success of a Road Trip Novel revolves around the three C's: cuteness, (plot) contrivance and cliches. For one to be a success, the first C has to outweigh the last two and for the most part Amy and Roger's Epic Detour does just that. It is undeniably cute. I finished it with a big ol' smile on my face....and then I sat down a few days later to write a review and instead of all the cuteness, reality kept butting in with questions like:
- What grade felony is it to transport a minor over state lines without the permission of her guardian?
- Do Jeep Liberties have THE best gas mileage of all time?
- Why why why would you pick Krystals over BBQ in Memphis?
- Does anyone really think a hot guy wearing glasses is any less hot? [Insert 30 solid minutes of Tumblr evidence collecting: Matt Bomer, Ryan Gosling, Wilson Bethel, I could go on with literally ANY encouragement.] Edit for Belle: Jude Law, Jon Hamm, Ed Westwick, Daniel Henney, Chris Pine, Darren Criss.
- Doesn't Matson realize you cannot "sip" a Dairy Queen Blizzard without either the use of a microwave or bursting all the blood vessels in your eyes? (This came up in the middle of a pivotal (MAKEOUT) scene and I swear I heard the record scratch sound effect in my head. I couldn't get over it. Ask Maggie about enduring my five paragraph email ode to Blizzards.)
But while some of the details didn't hold up under cross examination and when you actually list out all the cliches (honeymoon suite! makeover! sharing a single bed!) they seem a little much, Matson totally nailed the feelings behind a Road Trip Novel. The strange conversations around mile 750 feeling. The only you and I saw that happen feeling. The camaraderie. The food. The MUSIC. (That's a link to all of Roger's playlists compiled into one Grooveshark list---before I realized there was already one on Spotify. Yay productivity circling the drain!)
In the end, Amy and Roger are just too likable and Matson's writing is just too charming to ignore. And that's why, while the book is predictable and pretty generic in it's choices, it is still a heckuva lot of FUN. Rating: 3.5/5 stars.