Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson is the kind of novel you want to be in. Matson cleverly combines themes such as grief and heartbreak with a sense of hope, a combination so rarely pulled off successfully.
When I first read the blurb I wondered how the plot could withstand over 300 pages. In short, Amy’s given the task of driving from her home in California (a state which she has never left) to Connecticut. The problem is, since Amy’s dad died a few months before, Amy has stopped driving. Roger, a family friend who she can hardly remember, takes up the post as driver and the pair begin on a journey that inevitably spirals into a huge detour. This means that most of the novel takes place on a car journey – hardly the most thrilling of backdrops.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, for the few days I was reading the book it was all that I could think about. Taking a road trip across America is definitely a top priority on my bucket list and so reading about Amy and Roger’s adventures was enthralling. Also, while Amy and Roger go on a physical adventure and visit new states, meet new people and experience the local food, they also go through an emotional journey which is completely captivating.
Matson made a similar road trip herself as a college student driving from Connecticut to California and when writing Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour she took another trip, visiting states she wished to write about but had not yet explored. A road trip that was supposed to take ten days, took a month.
Matson said, “even when you think you know where you’re going, the journey has a way of changing on you. I ended up taking detours, side trips, and eventually tossing out my own original itinerary. I ate lots of NuWay when I visited my grandmother in Wichita, found I liked Memphis so much I ended up staying for a while and listening to the Blues, and then I met up with an old friend in South Carolina, eating the best barbeque I’ve ever had.”
Her previous novel Since You’ve Been Gone focussed on friendship and while Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour continues to explore this form of relationship, it also involves some romance – making it that much more desirable to potential readers. All of these elements combined – adventure, emotional baggage, romance and a sense of ‘home’ – sets Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour apart from any other young adult fiction, even Matson’s own work.
To round-off, here’s one of my favourite lines.
“You’ve got to have pride in your home. You are where you’re from. Otherwise, you’re always going to be lost.” (Walcott)