Three months ago Amy’s dad died in a car accident, and Amy hasn’t driven since. Because, after all, she was driving then. She knows she’s responsible for his death.
So when Amy’s mom decides to move cross-country from California to Connecticut, she first puts Amy’s drug-addled twin brother in rehab in North Carolina. She then leaves Amy to look after herself for a month while she finishes her junior year in high school. Once Amy finishes the school year, her mom has a plan for Amy: she will cross the country with Roger, the nineteen-year-old son of a friend who also needs to get back East, to Philadelphia, to see his father. Amy’s mom has provided maps, driving instructions and pre-paid hotel reservations. The two teens should make it to Connecticut in four days.
What could go wrong?
Just about everything.
But what’s so great about this story is that what goes wrong is what goes right—it’s full of the happy mistakes that make memories of a lifetime.
It isn’t that Amy is some happy-go-lucky girl. Quite the opposite. She’s guilt-ridden and her hair is starting to fall out from stress. She’s immersed in grief, thinking of her father’s death as the endless interruption of a conversation. He was a history teacher who loved Elvis Presley. Amy had always been his navigator on long road trips. Theirs was a close relationship, and no one in the family has tried to appropriately deal with his death.
Road trip books are always fun, and Amy and Roger have the valuable experience of ‘getting ready for the party being more fun than the party itself.’ They first get off track when they decide to go to Yosemite. Amy’s family had taken vacations there together, and she longs to see it again. Once the pair is committed to disobeying Amy’s mom and traveling wherever they like, taking as long as they want, it becomes clear that Roger is on this trip because he wants to confront his ex-girlfriend, for whom he still carries a flame. Too bad, because he’s incredibly good looking.
Many of the stops on this cross-country adventure have connections to other books—for example, the detour to Kansas, where Amy questions what home really is, and whether you can go back there when someone in the family is missing. It’s a sweet nod to The Wizard of Oz.
The trip includes unexpected meetings with eccentric characters, all of whom enrich Amy and Roger in some way. There’s lots of good fast food—different franchises in each state—and there’s always good music as Roger creates playlists based on the pair’s emotional state that day or on their destination. (Don’t let the unfortunate opening with Billy Joel songs put you off. The wackier, more creative choices are coming right up!)
Amy’s mother is so angry at her disobedience that she cuts off her credit card. Amy and Roger pool their funds and have to arrive back East just as the money runs out. When they get there, Amy has learned much—about life as well as death. And she’s ready to have the conversation that she and her mother have been putting off.
Just about any teen will enjoy this one.
Note: Morgan Matson, the author of Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, is scheduled to be at this Saturday’s Ontario Teen Book Fest at Merton Hill Auditorium (on the Chaffey High campus–corner of Euclid and Fifth Street). The book fest will be 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It’s free, but you must reserve a ticket to get in. Call 909-395-2225 to reserve your ticket. You may also pick up a ticket in the quad–May 9 at Chaffey High, May 10 at Colony High.