Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson | Rating: ★★★★★
“The best discoveries always happened to the people who weren't looking for them.”
For years, I was skeptical of starting this little guy. I had been put off of it for some reason or another, perhaps just being hesitant in picking up young adult contemporaries. But, I was on a "I'll read it eventually" kick for the longest time. Except, one day recently, I decided to get off my ass and finally give this novel a chance. I have to say that I'm incredibly thrilled that I did and find myself asking why I wasn't into the idea of it. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is full of so much heart and a whole lot of soul, fluff and coping with loss. Matson pens a tale of love, loss and the road perfectly and weaves through genuine emotion without sounding cheap, generic or out of bounds.
The biggest mistake book lovers can make when picking up this nugget is by believing it will be something fluffy; a romantic subplot that comes and goes. It's not. You have no idea how much is packed into such a small story--emotions will be at a high the entire time as you watch things slowly but surely develop and... ugh, it was just an experience I loved. Morgan Matson is underrated, although beloved, and doesn't get enough credit for how much soul her characters have and how excellent her writing is.
That's the biggest thing I need to point out. Matson is a pro at conveying emotions and has this vivid, smooth way of wording things. Her writing is something of a gem in YA literature because it's in a league of its own. There are a ton of moments, passages and quotes, where you will have the chills and mark down notes/tabs. Because she just gets it.
When we meet Amy Curry we see more or less a shadow of who she once was after her family suffered a loss. At first, readers are able to see only her grief and anger towards this event, not yet understanding how her father died. We know the loss was sudden, unexpected, and now the girl is unable to bring herself to drive--so we do get a little foreshadowing of what happened. In some ways her grief over this is predictable, but the way it is portrayed is another story. Amy is very, very real to us and Morgan Matson created a life in this young woman. Amy Curry is not just a character, she is a bit of all of us.
We get to know her at the start of her summer, one she is definitely not looking forward to, and the brief window of time before she embarks on a trip from her home in California to her new one all the way in Connecticut. I liked the honesty that came with Amy as a whole--she is very typical in the teenage girl sense, a lot of her thoughts are very... well, you feel like you are her or know her. I liked that Matson put all the little details into who she was then vs. now, and naturally I'm exceptionally fond of her due to her love of theatre. I felt like she was a lot like me, only the unimaginable had happened at some point.
The way she approaches these topics was super, super, SUPER, solid.
Enter Roger Sullivan, a boy near her age who's an old family friend. Roger is basically a sweetheart who is taking this trip, driving, and has a lot of stories in himself. The thing about love interests in novels is sometimes characters aren't equals or their plots muddle together to the point where it just waters them both down somehow. Roger isn't that case. He has a great deal happening in his life at university and his plot has to do with an ex-girlfriend who toyed with him, and his inability to get over this. Not in a bad way--he just needed closure at the end of the day.
(And the realization that it wasn't meant to be.)
In terms of moving on, this trip represents confronting a lot of feelings when it comes to the past, for both Amy and Roger. I loved that as they drive, as they take their detour and explore, the details are vivid and the emotions are high. Morgan delves into these PERFECTLY and her use of music and little bonus portions of the book just makes it even better.
Although Amy has very, very vague memories of Roger, from childhood, they are still virtually strangers to each other. Still, their dynamic is intriguing from the start--they have to get used to each other, they both have their baggage, they are both fascinating and complex and this trip brings them together in more ways than one. I liked that together, they helped each other in all their baggage. They were put in a situation that made them befriend each other and it was all very nice to see happen.
Other goodies: beyond the settings, the side characters are AWESOME as hell. I am serious, the people they meet along the way are so wonderful because they fit with everything. You can definitely see how much time and effort Morgan Matson put in developing plots and characters because they all happen in a realistic sense. From parents, to best friends, roommates, exes, siblings and Roger's ex girlfriend's brother, we meet a lot of people in between Amy and Roger's adventure.
Basically, this novel is a gem amongst a crowded genre and feels true to life. It's a can't miss read that will give readers all the feels.