I am proud to say this book is going on my keeper shelf. Road trip novels always held a special appeal to me, so this book was always going in my TBR. It was one of my most anticipated books of 2010. From the cover, to the first sentence, all the way to the ending - it held me in a way few books do. I am proud to say it both met and surpassed all expectations I had.
Amy is home alone in California, packing up to drive across the country to her new home in Connecticut with her mother and her twin brother, Charlie. Roger is sent with her to supervise, drive, and hitch a ride to Philadelphia himself. They were old childhood playmates, but they hardly remembered each other. Amy is barely getting over her father's recent death, and Roger is dealing with the harsh break-up of someone he thought he loved. Needless to say, we are met with two needy and complex protagonists, and they give us one heck of a ride.
What mainly follows is a series of detours. Amy and Roger decide to ride through Yellowstone, bypassing her mother's preplanned route; hotel reservations and MapQuest directions included. With caution thrown to the wind, we see these two characters change and build a relationship unlike any other. Amy deals with fears and her inability to be adventurous, as well as with a not-so-smooth mother/daughter relationship. Roger deals with trying to move on from a relationship that was never quite right, and with his new experiences with Amy.
The writing and layout of this book was, in one word, perfect. It flowed and had the fun campy quality of Johnson's 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES and the depth of BECOMING CHLOE. Out of all the road trip novels I have read, this is so far the tops in terms of writing. The reader is also treated to the occasional email or music playlist. Though they don't show up constantly, but just enough to leave a lasting impact. Oh, and the rare receipt thrown in also had a lasting effect. Let me just say that this method ties into the ending in a way that left me utterly reeling with joy.
Characterization and plot are no strangers to the power of this simple yet complex writing. Amy and Roger grow so slowly, yet exponentially, that the reader is left with a sense of completion upon finishing each chapter. The actions and growth are so subtle, yet hit the reader like the impact of an ocean wave on a tiny plastic boat. Even the side characters are perfect; their formations are great, and they don't ever feel like they are dropped, which is usually the case with novels like this. Even stationary novels have trouble with wrapping up characters, yet Matson does it with an ease and clarity that is appreciated greatly.
Quotes begin every chapter section and fit together very well with the overall theme of the novel. This book is romantic and cute, but it manages to have several layers to it. The overall themes involving traveling and home and letting go are hit hard and in just the right spots to make the reader think without over-analyzing anything in the text. Even the references in theatre and song that dot the text have meaning aside from the obvious.
A spot on the keeper shelf is nothing to this book. Really, I could give it a whole wall and it would not be enough. I loved everything about it; plot, writing, characters, themes...This book has it all. Even at hardcover, I would not hesitate to pick this book up. I would tell anyone to read it, just for the sweet romance and the idea of learning more about yourself and the people you know and love.
*Gold Star Award Winner!show more