Friday, August 7, 2015

Flashback Friday (#9): Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

This is a more irregular feature. Flashback Friday is where I review, or possibly discuss, an old TV show, movie, book, or album. So what's considered old? Anything that was not released within the past year and a half. By years, I mean calendar year (so for this year, June 2014-December 2015 would NOT be old).

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 4th, 2010
Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.
I've heard great things about this book since I first started blogging, but I kept putting off reading it. I'm so glad I finally picked it up, though. If you haven't seen on my social media or didn't see my most recent Fiction Friction post, I've been in a huge slump, and I've been having a hard time finishing anything, but I did manage to finally finish Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, which I enjoyed.

I usually enjoy road trip books or any books with traveling in them in general, but I don't read too many of them because there aren't many I know of or can get my hands on. So I knew I had to read this when I saw it at the library. It lived up to my expectations and even went beyond it. I was expecting a cute, light summer read, and it delivered, but I wasn't expecting how dark it was also going to be and how deep it got, though never enough to bring down the entire tone/feel of the book. I would still say it's a quick, light read, but it definitely has its share of the darker topics.

Amy is struggling to cope with her grief, and she's struggling to open up and admit it/talk to someone about it. She's closed herself off, blaming herself for everything. She found herself distancing herself from her mom, her brother, her friends, everyone. It was so rewarding to see her change throughout the book, slowly opening up to Roger and to others around her. It was slow, as it should be, and it was the kind of change that happened subtley. Many times, it wasn't until after a moment and after thinking back on Amy earlier in the book that I realized how much had changed.

Along with that change, we saw a change in their relationship and the way they interacted. Amy starts to realize that she notices all the little things and the little habits Roger has. It's not difficult to predict that they would get together in the end, but seeing her struggle to work out her feelings, especially when he was still preoccupied with his ex-girlfriend, was really valuable. Even though the book only takes place over the span of a few days, it feels like much longer, and it feels very much like their relationship evolves slowly.

Roger is also a very well-written and well-rounded character. We see his struggles as well, but we also see him trying to help Amy. The other characters along the way are also interesting and for the most part still have a back story and are not just one-dimensional plot devices. Even though they're used to move the plot along, there's more to them as characters.

Matson also does a great job at balancing the tough stuff and lighter topics. With a book like this, I expected a quick, breezy, fun, light read. While I would still characterize the book overall in this way, the book was surprisingly dark at times. Matson doesn't shy away from dealing with Amy's grief. She doesn't just breeze over it. She explores it, along with Amy's brother's situation, her situation with being away from her mother, and more. There are times when it almost doesn't feel like you're reading such a cute, fun road trip book.

But there were also so many cute moments that I loved. They were just as well written, and they were earned moments, if that makes sense. I enjoyed the little snippets of pictures, receipts, etc, and I especially loved the playlists. It was such a treat to find bands and songs I love but aren't super popular on the playlists.

One of the few small things I had problems with, perhaps more from my slump than anything, was that this is a slow-moving book. The book only takes place over a few days, but it feels like so much longer. Now, I would usually be okay with that, but I also felt like this made the book drag in certain places. With a book like this, it's hard to create a really big, exciting, new climax, and the novel didn't do that. There were ups and downs and there were definitely some conflicts, but as a whole, there wasn't something that particularly made me want to keep reading the way I normally would want to. I felt like there were portions that could have led to bigger things blowing up but perhaps because of the nature of their trip and the short time span, it just didn't happen. For someone in a slump, it meant that more than once, I had to make myself continue reading, even when there wasn't a big pull for me to do so.

The second tiny thing that I wish had been explored more was Amy's relationship with her past friends. I know it wasn't meant to be a big focus because it was supposed to be about Amy moving forward and moving beyond, but I think there were portions that were also about finding the "old" Amy. In being able to move beyond her grief, she was able to start to be herself again, but I found that the story line with her old friend (Julia?) was never fully fleshed out. Maybe it didn't need to be--she moved on from that time of her life and she was moving anyway, but it could have added another layer to her road to recovery, at least in my opinion. Otherwise, what was the point?

Overall, this book was a really nice surprise, though I went into it expecting just as much. The book was a lot deeper than I thought it would be, and it definitely added to my wanderlust. It helped a little with my slump, but mostly I was just glad that I was able to finish the book without too much of a struggle. Perhaps if I weren't reading this during a huge slump, I would have given it a 5, but alas.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Morgan Matson: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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