5 out of 5 stars
First published in 2011, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is the debut novel of Young Adult author Morgan Matson. It centres around the narrating character, Amelia Curry, and her unwilling road-trip from California to Connecticut to get mother’s car to their new home. Unfortunately, Amy’s father had not long passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident so Amy is not keen to get behind the wheel too soon. Enter Roger Sullivan: an old family friend who is given the task by their mothers to drive Amy all the way across the country.
This book absolutely exceeded my expectations.
Firstly, I adored the writing style and Amy’s voice. It was slick and sophisticated yet still fit the image of a seventeen year old girl. The language used was superb and so well paced that at no point did I ever feel bored. If it wasn’t for sleep and work, then I would have gladly read this book in one sitting. It was so compelling and intriguing that I wanted to read more just to find out what was going on with these two characters.
Amy was a brilliant narrating character and I was so pleased with how she developed throughout the novel. More often than not in stories like these, the main character remains moderately the same whilst acknowledging the changes that have happened around them. But they themselves don’t really change. Amy grew up. Within the span of four days (novel time setting), I was able to learn about this girl and feel as though I got an insight into what made her tick. The flashbacks she shares at various points of the novel were heartbreaking when the story is finally put together and they show just how much this girl has changed. Like how she refers to her old room as having another girl living in it, “Amy!”. She compares who she is to who she was, yet at the same times says that she was never really the happy bouncy Amy that her room is modelled to be by the estate agents. That girl never existed even when her life was somewhat how she wanted it and she hates that. Amy was such a relatable character – she had suffered a loss that had shook her to the core, she felt abandoned by her mother, she felt responsible for her brother’s drug addiction, and she felt scared of the things she had done. To watch her decent and small rise was so refreshing.
Even when she talked about the choices she had made that I didn’t agree with, I never felt as though those choices shouldn’t have been written. This was the story of how this girl dealt with the loss of her father and how she felt about those choices, and reading the pain in her voice as she thought back over the things she would have done differently just made me love this character more.
Even her brother, Charlie, was likeable. Everyone has a sibling like Charlie – it may not be to the extent of drug addiction and rehab, but the fact still remains. He was annoying and childish, bratty and sarcastic and spoilt. But he was real. When I read about Charlie and Amy, I couldn’t help but see myself and my younger brother. It was strange and lovely all at once. You could see that, though she was angry at him, she loved him and he loved her. It was the kind of thing that I miss in stories in first person perspective. The characters narrating rarely have siblings. ( TFiOS – Hazel; Anna Dressed In Blood – Cas to name a couple.) And even rarer, siblings that I would love to see have their story be told. Charlie is definitely a character who I wished had had more time in the story – or at least his own novel or novella. He was interesting and I wanted to learn more about him than just what Amy saw of him.
Roger was a character that I liked and felt like hitting at the same time. Just because I am well aware of guys like him. When he’s first introduced as the tall, hot college boy I had an instant feeling of Oh, it’s going to be one of those stories… But that thought was shot out of my head when I got to see more of Roger’s quirks and characteristics. He was sweet and made sure that Amy was okay, his obsession with good music was adorable but at the same time his real motivation to go on the road-trip was borderline stalker… I still liked him because he was a good person and his development, like Amy’s, was amazingly done. But some parts I just wanted to hit him and tell him to get over it. He was downtrodden because of a breakup and was so hung up on this girl that he suggested the detour. When he finally found his ex-girlfriend, Hadley, again and grew a pair I was so pleased. As much as I enjoyed reading about him in places, it seemed like his sole reason to be in the story was girls. He travelled to find Hadley and then ends up with Amy. There’s no mid point of this adventure for him in which he gets anything other than thoughts about girls… That said, he was a very attentive friend and showed some quirks (like the mall sock race) that made me want to be there and have a friend like him.
Aside from the characters and the fantastic writing, the other aspect that I loved about this book was the inclusion of images, drawings and handwritten playlist notes. It was so unique! Seeing all the locations that the pair went to, the little items that they had collected like receipts and door hangers just made the novel feel that little bit more inclusive. Getting to see what they spent at a restaurant, the food they bought and things they saw was like getting a little pass into their world, like getting travel with them. The playlists were my favourite touch though. As soon as I found the first one, I was on Spotify instantly creating the playlist for myself – listening to them at each stage of them showing up just added to the immersion I felt whilst reading. Each set the tone for the next little section of the story and showcased the emotions that were being put into play. Plus, it introduced me to some incredible songs that I would have never found if hadn’t been for this book.
I have to say that one thing I didn’t really like was the implication that Amy and Roger had sex towards the end of the novel. It’s in their actions before and after, plus the image of a door hanger saying ‘Do Not Disturb’. I know people do random things in the heat of the moment, but I felt it was just a tad out of character for them considering the time span of the novel was four days. It felt a little awkward thinking back on it, but during my initial read of the story it flowed so well that I barely registered what had happened until I closed the book.
Personally, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour isn’t just a novel; it’s an experience that everyone needs to have at least once in their life. Not just reading the story, but going through what the characters did. It made me feel happy and ready for my holiday, and in dire need of a good road trip. Though there were certainly faults, it was still an enjoyable read.