Book Title: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Publication date: 04/05/2010
Publishers: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young adult contemporary romance
Hey guys! So a short while ago I finished reading this rather wonderful book called Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is the second book I’ve read by Morgan Matson (I read Since You’ve Been Gone back at uni this year) and she is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors of young adult fiction.
I’m Going on an Adventure
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is an adventure. If it’s your dream to travel America this story provides such a fun insight into the culture of several different states and descriptions of a few key attractions. At the heart of the journey is two brilliantly developed and likable characters, Amy and Roger, and along the way we meet many others. Matson’s stories are alive with the true hearts of her characters and after SYBG I didn’t expect anything less.
Amy and Roger travel from Los Angeles, California to their respective end destinations and have about a gazillion rebelliously unscheduled stops along the way. However, I personally wouldn’t have minded if they stayed on the road forever, because that’s how long I want to keep reading this book.
As I enjoyed their journey so much, I thought it would be a fun idea to retrace their steps (or mileage!)
A Journey Begins
Several journeys begin within the first few chapters of the story. There is the literal journey set out on an excess of long American roads. There is the emotional journey, as Amy struggles with the death of her dad. And there is a passionate journey, as both Amy and Roger attempt to make sense of the world of young love.
The story begins in Los Angeles, California. Amy is living alone in Raven Rock, trying to remember the girl she used to be. She has been through a devastating life-changing accident and we get the impression that maybe she needs to realise that things will never be the same again. But, that doesn’t mean that she can’t one day be happy again.
To give her a push start down this road is a young man called Roger, an unexpected friend who is by her side as she sets off. He does not know every detail of her grief at this point. Amy has her feelings locked up deep within her mind and she is a long way from letting them out.
Amy is struggling, her family has fallen apart and so has she. She wants more than anything to reach out to her mum and brother, Charlie, but she doesn’t know how. And, it seems, neither do they. They all have a similar way of dealing with their grief. Matson handled this aspect of the families development very carefully and effectively portrays the way these three characters are connected in thought, but disconnected when it comes to expressing their feelings aloud.
Amy meets Roger and takes to the road with him. As the road trip commences we are treated to a glorious overload of American culture. Amy goes to In-N-Out Burger with Roger, which I believe should certainly be added to my USA bucket list (when I went to LA in 2012 I visited Johnny Rockets on Hollywood Boulevard – yum!)
They visit “Santa Bonita’s Oldest Convenience Market,” after Roger insists that the two most important things to include on any road trip are tunes and snacks. They stock up on a whole bunch of American goodness, including classic American sweets (or “candy”) like Red Vines and Reece’s Pieces!
Since I appear to have a lot to say about this book – (because I love it!) – I am going to focus it down to my favourite things about my favourite places on the trip (that’s a lot of favourites) and obviously any other book-reviewy comments. So, without any further ado, it’s off to Yosemite!
Beware of the Bears
Yosemite is beautiful. I adore Matson’s descriptions of this picturesque location. This section is filled with highs and lows. On a happy note, we see Amy and Roger’s newfound friendship beginning to blossom. I love the kind of teenage awkwardness you can sense between them. The moment they realise their cabin has one double bed is so funny and endearing. Amy is clearly anticipating the uncomfortable situation.
However, Roger stops it from becoming much of a reality. I like that he isn’t an especially loud character, he isn’t arrogant or cocky, but he has a sort of quiet confidence and helps Amy without ever being too intrusive. I think he is the kind of person Amy needs to be around, which is why they get on so well.
We also see the extent of Amy’s devastation in this section of the story. It is upsetting but importantly helps us understand how she feels at this point. She is clearly a strong character, visiting a place which reminds her so vividly of past times spent with her dad. I just hoped that she would eventually let her guard down and open up to Roger, who I could already sense was shining like a little ray of light in her life.
The Loneliest Road in America
Next, Amy and Roger find themselves on Highway 50, Nevada (also known as “The Loneliest Road in America”). Amy is struck by the absence of roadside amenities or any other cars. I like this section of seclusion that the characters experienced together, it gives them more time to get to know one another.
“…that we hadn’t actually entered some kind of Lost-esque purgatory”
Matson is skilled at giving her characters their own sense of humour. I absolutely love the reference to Lost in relation to them being stuck on a never ending road. Those of you who have seen Lost will understand the kind of impossible scenarios which tended to occur on the mysterious island. Got to love an intertextual reference that throws the characters into the real world.
They end up in the town of Fallon and locate a mini mini-mart to stock up on their snacks. I love how Amy starts to automatically pick up a root beer for Roger, along with a cream soda for herself. We are getting to know them as well, just as they are getting to know each other. Amy picks up Skittles and a LOOK! bar and some more Reece’s Pieces for Rogers. We start to see them become more and more comfortable with each other as time goes on.
“So I turned in a circle, taking a picture in every direction, knowing that was the only way I could come close to capturing what it looked like”
I think Amy would have one of those cool polaroid camera’s, a pastel yellow one. I got the impression that she was adding to her travel journal as she went along, as we get to see all the adorable little pages of photos and notes. The journal is a gift from her mum which she left in the house. I think maybe her mum subconsciously wants her to experience some sort of freedom. Perhaps she knows that letting Amy run further astray would eventually draw them both back together.
Rose Petals and Hotel Shampoo
In this section of the book Amy and Roger become Hillary and Edmund Udell, blagging their way into a honeymoon suite for the night. Of course, they don’t know this at the time of the blagging, resulting another tension filled night. By this point it is becoming a slightly different type of tension. They have only been growing closer during their travels so far, even if they haven’t quite realised it yet.
We get a taste of yet more American culture as Amy falls in love with diners and the beautiful sites of Utah. Also, I love how Amy and Roger have that kind of friendship which is filled by banter, but the harmless kind not the occasionally offensive kind. Like the way they joke about writing haiku poems in Yosemite and, in this section, how Roger teases Amy for snapping pictures of interesting looking trees. We start to realise that the end of the road trip will not mean the end of their friendship.
Schooool’s out for summer
As the story continues we start to meet more characters. They visit Roger’s college in Colorado and Amy meets his flatmate, Bronwyn Elizabeth Taylor. She is the breath of fresh air Amy needs and plays a big part in bringing her back to life. She makes Amy come to a party (throwing in the American college experience with what I imagined would have included an abundance of plastic red cups filled with only knows what). But Amy finds herself having fun, if only for a short while.
We learn more in this section about Amy’s past relationship with a boy called Michael. She recounts the moment she lost her virginity to him and our perception of her emotional heartache is taken yet deeper. But, it is also becoming clearer that she is slowly finding ways to be herself again. And Roger is the main reason for that. Oh, and partly the suitcase full of new stylish clothes from Bron.
There’s no place like home
Yep, you guessed it, Kansas is next on the list. They meet Roger’s friend Drew at Wichita Country Club, where we can soak up our next barrel full of American culture. We can tell that Roger is the kind of person who has very good and long-lasting friendships. He finds it easy to introduce Amy to Drew and I love the fact that they have hilarious nicknames for each other.
They visit NuWay Café and get Freddy’s Frozen Custard. But the most important part of this section is Amy conversion with Derek Walcott on the golf course where the friends eat their fast food meals. He is such a friendly and welcoming character and I found myself instantly liking him. He is the first person Amy speaks about her dad too. He lends her some of the most important advice she gets over the course of the whole book…
“Tomorrow will be better”
The Moose and the Owl
This is where things start to get a bit complicated as Amy and Roger struggle to realise their true feelings for each other. They travel to the Armstrong Farm Estates in Hummingbird Valley. Roger is intent on talking to his ex-girlfriend, Hadley. But, by the time they actually arrive, both Amy and Roger realise they don’t want this meeting to happen.
They meet Hadley’s brother, Lucien, and are invited to explore the wonders of the family’s estate. Amy is impressed by his skills in topiary and I love the fact that he makes her an owl to take away with her. Amy and Lucien share a brief romantic moment and even though we can tell it won’t amount to anything, we also know that it is important. Lucien helps Amy to drive again for the first time since the accident and he also helps her along in her journey, like Bron and Roger do as well.
You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog
Amy and Roger also visit Graceland, where Amy finally allows herself to think about nothing but her dad and everything she loved about him. I think this is the final piece of her path towards being somewhat okay again, even if she hasn’t quite got all the way to the end of it yet. I love the moment where she leaves her dad a postcard on the top of the gate in this location, it is an extremely moving moment.
They also visit her brother’s rehab and I love the character of Charlie. I am so glad that Matson included this section as well as the random passages about her brother in previous chapters. I think Charlie becomes such a significant characters and I like to think he gets out of rehab and re-joins Amy and the family. The ending when Amy and Roger finally admit their feelings to each other is perfectly wonderful and I would love to read more about what happened when their detour came to an end.
Wow – this review is long. I guess I just really enjoyed this book and I hope if you’ve read it you agree. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Just to finish, here are some snaps from my trip to LA back in 2012!
Lots of love,