Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: May 2011 (paperback), May 2010 (hardcover)
Genre: young adult, travel
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.
Amy’s life turned upside down after her father died in a car accident three months ago. Her brother’s in rehab in North Carolina, her mother’s in Connecticut preparing their new home, and Amy’s alone in their sold house in California. She has to bring their car to Connecticut, but she’s in no shape to get behind the wheel. Roger, an old family friend, offers to join the road trip on his way to visit his father in Philadelphia. Upon noticing the dull route Amy’s mother mapped out for them, the two decide to go on an adventure — hours in the car, nights in parking lots and hotels and friends’ homes, and diner meals across the country are only the beginnings of a blossoming affection and internal discoveries.
Matson is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors — along with Gayle Forman and Sarah Dessen — for writing books that seem like it’ll be a sweet teen romance but end up revolving around the girl’s inner journey and growth. The focus on her development makes the flickering of romance all the more realistic and wholesome. Plus, parallel journeys with the self and literally across the country is absolutely perfect.
Traveling with someone — friends, family, partner — can make or break a relationship. You notice their habits, you’re with them every waking moment, you make decisions together the can change the course of the trip. What was so beautiful about Amy and Roger (near strangers) was that they both knew the other had a reason for wanting to take a detour, and rather than questioning or pestering, they understood one another and accepted it. They listened to each other’s music, played Twenty Questions, and even worked on Amy’s travelog together. They got to know one another on a deep level rather quickly thanks to the tiny car and vast country.
I can’t say much more about the characters and their journey without spoiling the book (although you may have already read it at this point), but I loved each stop they took, the people they met, the commentary they had about each state, and the descriptions of the landscape as they drove from one coast to the next. The travelog was neat too — receipts, photos, playlist notes, doodles, and random facts on the states — and gave us an in-depth glimpse of Amy and Roger’s growing affection for one another without the two realizing it was happening. Clever, cute, and wonderful.
Matson is definitely an author to follow.