February 3, 2011

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour: Review

Ever since the accident, Amy's shut the world out. She can't share anything with her drug-using brother, and her mom doesn't seem to understand. The one person Amy wants is her dad, but he's not there anymore — and she knows that's her own fault.

So when her mom announces they're moving across the country and Amy will be getting a ride with a friend's son, she is less than thrilled. But Roger turns out to be different than she expected, and when Amy decides to chuck her mom's itinerary and blaze her own trail across America, what might have been a routine trip turns into a personal journey for both of them.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson


I liked Amy's voice right from the beginning. She has a subtle, tongue-in-cheek, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humour that helped me to connect with her right away. I also identified with her desire for privacy and her anxiety about opening up to other people and sharing personal information. We soon see that psychologically she's still reeling from her dad's death and the blame she places on herself for it, and it will take a while before withdrawn Amy starts to break out of her shell. The slow, hesitant but hopeful steps Amy takes to start really living again are a treat to see.

We don't get to know Roger quite as well as Amy, but what I saw of him I liked. He's mature, and fun in a quiet kind of way. True, he's not perfect — he's got a huge hang-up about his ex-girlfriend that he just can't seem to let go of. Still, you can really only feel sorry for him when you hear about what a nasty piece of work she is. And he's gentle and cautious with Amy, pushing her a little to try new things without being forceful. He gives her the space she feels she needs, but he also gives her a reason for wanting that space to dissolve entirely.

While Amy and Roger are the two main characters (obviously, given the title) numerous others pop up along the way, some only briefly and others for a more lasting connection with Amy and the reader. In particular, I enjoyed the chapters with Lucien, as he is a fun-loving guy with a strong, well-defined personality (loved his hobby of sculpting topiary statues) and he was very instrumental in helping Amy get over some of her fears. I was glad we were introduced to Charlie towards the end as well, as Amy's brother is mentioned here and there throughout and it's clear there are issues between them that need to be discussed.


This is where I would say I was somewhat let down. The plot is extremely slow-moving, and while the detour may be "epic" in terms of character growth, there isn't a whole lot of action on the road trip. On the contrary, I think the message here is more that even the smallest decision or interaction can make a difference, and I appreciated that we were shown Amy didn't have to do anything *really* wild or crazy to start enjoying life again. Even small interactions with perfect strangers changed Amy, and I found this idea — almost 'roadtrip therapy,' in a sense — interesting. Still, I did feel like it dragged (particularly as some sections involve Amy's flashbacks), although it picks up a bit towards the end.

I also thought the climactic scene was resolved a little too quickly and easily. For spoilery details, highlight: Amy finally owns to Roger that she thinks it's her fault her dad is dead, and we find out exactly how the car accident occurred. However, we've been given flashbacks all along as well as Amy's own (intentionally vague and mysterious) thoughts about it, so this isn't too much of a surprise. Then, it just takes Roger repeating several times that it's not her fault before Amy suddenly realizes he's right, decides to stop blaming herself and has a good hearty cry. This just seemed like too much of an abrupt "fix-it" for Amy's problems, since moments before she was still feeling thoroughly guilty about the whole thing.

This was then followed by one particular plot point that I felt was quite out of character for Amy. This is spoilery so highlight to read: the progression of her romantic relationship with Roger was extremely rapid; they are kissing for the first time one minute and then in the same evening they have sex. I was certainly rooting for them to get together, but this just seemed to clash with Amy's personality — not to mention the last time she'd spontaneously decided to sleep with someone it hadn't turned out so well. I'm not sure if the author was trying to make up for lost time (since for a large part of the book these two aren't romantically involved) to give the reader some delayed gratification or if this was supposed to help Amy block out the night with Michael, but it felt kind of like we were being fast-forwarded through the initial stages of their relationship. 

As for the ending, it was pretty much perfect — hopeful and promising without being overly sugary, and the amount of ambiguity drove home the point that we cannot pin down the future.


Having never been to any of the places Amy and Roger travel through, I enjoyed learning some new facts about America. For instance, I could totally picture the eerie atmosphere of driving down "the Loneliest Road in America." As the journey continues, the characters and their interactions become a good deal more important than the locations they visit, so unfortunately we don't get to find out as much about the later states they visit (many of which seem to be big and flat, which is the general impression I got of the middle of the U.S.) I must say, though, that including a map of their trip would have been helpful; I had a great amount of difficulty picturing it, seeing as my knowledge of U.S. geography is basically limited to that Washington's just over the border from B.C., New York and Florida are on the east coast, California's on the west, and Texas is way down south. (I'm Canadian, remember!)

Writing style:

Matson's style is detailed and verbose, but this went along well with Amy's character, as she is a thoughtful and introspective narrator. I will say, though, that I thought some descriptive details were unnecessary (for instance, Amy and Roger stop at a lot of fast-food places along the way and we get told what they eat at every single one of them. Maybe it's just that I'm vegetarian but it really didn't do much for me besides slow down the plot.)

Major points for having all of the neat additions to the main chapters, in the form of receipts, photos, playlists and Amy's travel journal. These were fantastic little snippets that really added to the book's charm, and helped to break up the narrative. The haikus they write during the Yosemite hike are cute and hilarious!

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. I enjoyed the characters, their interactions, and Amy's personal growth, but I had a few issues with the pace and the climactic events.


  1. i have this book on my tbr shelf and i'm so excited to read it. thanks for the awesome review :)

  2. Love your review-style! Very thorough! And I'm really excited to read this!

    Thanks for stopping by the blog earlier to check out my PiC feature. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Asher K. (Paranormal Indulgence)

  3. I thought it was a sweet book, but you def make some points!
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  4. I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, based on your review, the characters sound really well developed and I love a story about growth, but the slow moving plot worries me a bit. Sometimes when the characters are really strong I don't notice the plot is slow moving, but I wonder if I would here. Thanks for such a thorough and well thought out review Danya, I got a good feel for this book from your thoughts on it!

  5. Like Jenny, I'm also on the fence with this title. I've lots of great buzz about it and have some library friends who raved about the book, but the slow plot and easily solved climax worries me. Since you thought the characters are well developed, I might give it a shot. Thanks for your detailed review!

  6. I really liked this book. It was a light, fun, beach read -- definitely perfect for a summer read! It wasn't a favorite, but I thought it was fun :)


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