It has been three months since the death of Amy Curry’s father. He was her best friend. They’d often drive around town listening to Elvis and eating Life Savers (which I just discovered are basically Fruit Polos!). After the accident, Amy’s mother decides that they need a fresh start and moves the family from California to Connecticut. She instructs Amy to drive their family car to the new home, accompanied by a boy – the son of a family friend – she barely knows. And so the epic road trip begins…
Amy is given a travel scrapbook as a gift to make the trip more exciting and these fictional scraps are included alongside the text – hotel and diner receipts, photos, cute hand-drawn illustrations, music playlists (including songs from some of my favourite bands and artists like Jack’s Mannequin and The Rocket Summer!), and interesting facts about each state they drove through. It made the story feel much more authentic and is something I’d like to see done more in books. I got a real sense of the characters’ travels as well as their growing relationship (e.g. Roger names each playlist according to where they are and what they’re doing).
My overall enjoyment of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour was down to how the story was told. We know that Amy’s father died in a car crash, but we’re not told exactly how it happened. Amy is unable to admit it to herself, let alone to anyone else. She’s overcome grief and doesn’t – or can’t – take the time to express how she’s feeling to her family or to Roger. We find out more about the accident and the problems within Amy’s family unit as the novel progresses. It would constantly flick back to ‘3 months before’, and other timeframes, which felt so refreshing and made it even more obvious how Amy transforms throughout the trip. It also means that the reader gets a well-rounded view of the situation.
I was also surprised at the relationship between Amy and Roger. Roger’s a fantastic male character – polite, slightly nerdy (he’s obsessed with explorers), perceptive, and sensitive to how Amy’s feeling. I had assumed that they’d fall for each other straight away – that it’d be a straightforward summer romance – but I actually think the story is more about friendship. Amy and Roger are in a situation where they are spending all of their time together after just meeting each other for what felt like the first time, and you can really tell. There’s awkward scenes and scenes where they’re not sure what to say to each other. They get to the point where they’re able to understand each other’s subtle body language. It felt extremely realistic and was a wonderful experience to read about. Morgan Matson writes about the little details that really epitomise what it’s like to get to know someone and open up to them.
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detouris an outstanding concoction of everything I love and is now one of my favourite books. It’s a story about dealing with uncontrollable grief, and the fear of letting it take over, but also about blossoming friendship and how it can occur in the most unlikely places. It’s a lovely, cute, wonderful book, and all the other adjectives I’d usually use to describe a YA contemporary novel, but it also succeeds in introducing us to the authentic, extremely likeable, and relatable characters – Amy and Roger – at its heart, through adversity to the stars.