I hate to say it, but I’m growing more and more wary of young adult novels lately. Young adult used to be my favorite genre, but I find myself gravitating more and more towards adult fiction and what some might term “chick lit.” It may be because SO many young adult novels now are part of a science fiction series, and just reading the synopsis on the jacket leaves me wading through strange fantasy lingo and feeling confused before I’ve even tried to start the book. These days, it takes a very strong recommendation from a reader who I trust to get me to crack open a confusing sci-fi book–It took me MONTHS to read the first Game of Thrones, and I only did it pushed through it because everyone kept saying, “It’s worth it! It’s worth it!”
Why does every new young adult novel seem to be sci-fi these days (and while we’re at it, set in a dystopian society)? I enjoyed The Hunger Games, yes…but that doesn’t mean I want to read a thousand dystopian novels now. It just gets depressing after awhile.
So I was really excited when I stumbled upon this little gem:
Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew–just in time for Amy’s senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she’s always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy’s mother’s old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she’s surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road–diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards–this is the story of one girl’s journey to find herself.
This book caught my eye for a few reasons:
A) It’s not set in a dystopian society. It’s set right here in the good ol’ USA.
B) It’s not a sci-fi novel. There are no ancient prophecies about Amy requiring her to discover her secret powers and slay evil creatures or anything. (Again, it’s not that I don’t like that kind of thing. I’ve just had my fill for the time being. I need a break.) Amy is just a normal girl.
C) The story will obviously have some romance…and I like that.
D) This story is about an epic road trip! Which is what I’m trying to write about right now (my novel is about a trip to the other side of the WORLD–not the other side of the country–but it’s the same idea. I’m glad to see that a young adult fictional travelogue is something that appeals to a wide audience.)
I was getting so excited waiting for this book to come in at the library that I started getting nervous that I was building my expectations too high. What if it’s a disaster? What if the writing is trite and cheap? What if it’s just not realistic?
But I’m happy to let you know, I ended up LOVING this book. In fact, Justin can attest that I would look up from the pages every so often with dreamy eyes and declare out loud, “I just love this book!” And he was like, “I know…you keep telling me,” and he’d roll his eyes and go back to reading World War Z.
I loved the road trip aspect of the story. The author is obviously a road trip veteran, and she included such realistic details that kept forgetting that Amy and Roger weren’t real people on a real trip. Amy and Roger scrap-booked their journey along the way, and the book includes some black and white photographs, iPod playlists, drawings, receipts, and brochures from the places they visit. I almost feel like I went on the trip with them.
The author writes some really good characters. Their scenes are always relatively short, since Amy and Roger are only encountering other characters during their pit-stops in different places during their cross-country trip, but they are still really interesting and memorable. I found myself thinking, “If I were Amy, I’d want to go back and visit them sometime…”
The author writes about a sad topic (the death of Amy’s father) without ever letting the grief of such a loss overwhelm the story. I never pick up books that I think might make me cry, and this one didn’t. She remembers and grieves for her father in a realistic way, but without making the reader miserable right along with her. It’s a fine line to walk, but the author does it really well.
If any of you are looking for a book recommendation this summer–this is it! I enjoyed this book so much, I’ll probably read it again at some point. Maybe during my own cross-country road trip (how fun would that be?!). 😀