Also by this author: Second Chance Summer, Save the Date, The Unexpected Everything
on May 4, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 344 •Format: Hardcover •Source: Library
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 so much about Matson over the past few weeks due to her upcoming release of Since You’ve Been Gone, so I was determined to get my hands on one of her books and try out her contemporary style myself! And I was pleasantly surprised, because not only was the book charming, but it’s the best road trip book I’ve ever read. Matson does an incredible job making you really feel like you’re on the road with Amy and Roger, and gives incredible purpose to each stop they make, whether it’s Yosemite or a tiny gas station on highway 50.
This book is classified as a romance by my library, but it’s really more about self-discovery. Matson does a great job weighing romance and grief and comedy in her narrative, and there’s a time and place for the romance but it doesn’t take over the story. I was so glad this book doesn’t suffer from a case of insta-love! Also, Amy the protagonist’s family is a real theme throughout the book, and though there’s no parents physically present on the road trip, Matson doesn’t fall into the parents-conveniently-not-involved-in-their-children’s-lives plot device. Basically, Matson is great at avoiding a lot of the YA clichés, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ll be returning to her novels!
I loved getting to experience Amy thoroughly as a character despite the narrative only taking place over the course of a handful of days. While Amy isn’t my favorite first-person narrator, it’s fun to watch her grow emotionally over the course of the trip and see her take away something new with every place they visit. Roger, too, was endearing and just like Amy, the reader develops a gradual relationship with him over the course of the trip. I guess you could say Matson writes character development with excellent timing, and you really feel a true growth like when you gradually get to know someone in real life. The one thing I did not like about Amy’s character is at times her internal dialogue seemed a little melodramatic, such as whenever she was alone with Roger she was over-the-top paranoid and nervous, despite the fact that she was by no means inexperienced when it came to boys. I also liked that Matson wrote characters with varying levels of experience with intimacy, and that Amy wasn’t your typical naive and impressionable YA heroine. So yay for Matson avoiding some character cliche’s as well!
The book has a rather abrupt ending, which I really liked. The ambiguity really lets the story of the trip speak for itself in the reader’s mind, rather than trying to wrap everything up with a cheesy or disappointing ending. Matson really wrote a road trip novel about the journey rather than the destination, and it’s the small stops along the middle of the novel that will live in reader’s memories, rather than a grand finale that overshadows the meat of the story.
What I Liked:
- All the fun extras! There’s receipt stubs, playlists, and funny little post cards written by Roger and Amy that preface each chapter that were great additions to making the reader feel engaged with the trip.
- Avoidance of a lot of YA clichés
- Romance doesn’t overshadow the story
- Amazing settings!
What I Didn’t:
- Amy’s internal monologue could seem more like a 14 year old’s than a 17 year old’s at times
- I wish Roger’s character could have been developed a bit more, rather than hearing about his constant preoccupation with another character
- It didn’t focus on grief as much as I thought it would
Overall: This book was a perfect summer read, fast paced without delving too deep into some of the heavier themes brought up. I’ll be picking up Matson’s other books, but it wasn’t the most profound or memorable novel about loss and love that I’ve read.