Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

7664334There’s nothing I love more than a good road trip. The long stretches of desert wasteland, the greasy spoon diners, the crumpled bags of Doritos – everything about it makes me long for the open road. There’s something magical about traveling through uncharted territory and catching a glimpse of what life must be like in a big, bustling city or a small desert town. It’s like pressing the pause button on the mundane rinse-wash-repeat cycle of daily life and watching the world pass by in a series of varied landscapes.

If you know how to do a road trip right (meaning don’t strictly go from point-A to point-B) there’s really no problem a cross-country journey can’t solve. That’s why I got super excited when I came across Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour!

The story revolves around a teenage girl who’s severely traumatized by her father’s untimely death. Sure, she may look like she’s got it all together, but she’s really just going through the motions on autopilot. Unable to drive – or even bring up her dad’s name – she’s living in a state of emotional shellshock. That is until she meets Roger.

Her road to healing all begins when she joins Roger on an epic cross-country adventure from California to her new home in Connecticut. Although she was less than thrilled that her mom forced her to take a road trip with a stranger, she quickly warms up to the soft-spoken college boy. Too bad he’s totally hung up on his ex-girlfriend, who inexplicably stopped taking his calls.

For the first time ever, Amy decides to rebel against her mother and throws her direct route out the window. She’s in no hurry to face the real world and needs to take some time for herself. Plus it helps that she’s sharing a car with a tall, blond and handsome boy!  As  they travel from Yosemite to Colorado Springs to Graceland, they fall deeper and deeper in love and begin to come to terms with their problems.

This book perfectly captures the beauty of the American road trip. Like the journey of life, if you focus on the destination, you’re missing out big time!  It’s about  talking to strangers at a random pit stop. It’s about listening to mixed tapes and playing silly word games. It’s about going outside your comfort zone and trying something you’ve never done before.

For instance, while bunking with Roger’s college friend, Brownyn, at a college dorm, Amy learned an insightful bit of knowledge about confidence. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a Texan, but Brownyn is the coolest secondary character in the book. Although she may look like another fashion-obsessed sorority girl, she’s a super sweet – and very generous – Southern Belle. I sure wish someone would surprise me with a suitcase full of stylish new clothes!

“And sometimes,” she added, in slightly hushed tones, like she was letting me in on a secret, “if you don’t feel great on the inside, just look great on the outside, and after a while you won’t be able to tell the difference.” – Brownyn

What I really love about this book is the chatter between Amy and Roger as they drive along lonely highways and munch on cheeseburgers on the hood of the car. As their relationship develops, they offer each other some insights into their emotional hangups.

 “Tomorrow will be better.” “But what if it’s not?” I asked. “Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better.” – Roger

I also really enjoyed the random musings about road sign oddities and state trivia facts. Yes, this book is mostly about personal tragedy and healing, but it’s also got some funny moments. Anyone who’s done a long haul across multiple state lines would get a kick out of the random roadside observations.

“In addition to the OPEN RANGE CAUTION, there were animal signs I’d never seen before-an antelope, a cow, and cow with horns…But it worried me that, without warning, a cow with horns might be running across the interstate. And that this had happened frequently enough that they’d had to erect a sign to warn people about it.” – Amy

All in all, I have to say Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is the reason why the YA genre is so much more than bubblegum and fluff. Filled with poignant insights, lyrical narratives and fascinating characters, this book transcends age demographics. If you enjoy a good story about self-discovery, adventure and sweet romance, check this one out!  With photos of receipts, breakfast platters and various roadside sightings, you’ll feel like you’re right there in the car with Amy and Roger. Music lovers will also enjoy the listings of songs on their playlists. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – get it, read it, share it!!!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Confession – dystopian fiction isn’t really my thing, but how could I pass up a $5 bestseller on Audible? I’ve read so many stellar reviews about Delirium, so I figured it would be quality entertainment. Let me tell ya, if you’re an audiobook fan – check this one out! The narrator is absolutely fantastic!!! Through her dramatic narration, I really felt Lena’s anguish as she struggled to not fall victim to the dreaded love virus.

That’s right, love is considered to be a nasty disease in Lauren Oliver’s highly disturbing dystopian society. So to avoid infection, everyone must undergo a government-mandated lobotomy (aka “the procedure). After ridding themselves of the deliria, they go off to marry their government-assigned spouse and live out the rest of their loveless lives in suburbia.

In a sense, this is a new spin on the zombie apocalypse genre. Though they’re not shambling decomposing corpses, these people are left to wander the earth as vacant shells. Without the ability to love, they’re basically brainwashed and stripped of their souls. Come to think of it, it would be very much like living in a world of young Republicans. That, my friends, is a scary thought!

The townsfolk of Portland, Maine aren’t frightened. In fact, they’re looking forward to “the procedure” because life without love will be so much easier…or so the government says. For Lena Holloway, the operation couldn’t come soon enough. After her mother’s mysterious suicide, her ability to love is more like a form of torture. But after “the procedure” she can just go through the motions like her robotic aunt. After her 18th birthday, all the hurt, pain and sleepless nights will disappear forever. She’ll be under the government’s protection and everything will be hunky-dory.

But when Lena’s best friend begins to rebel against the government’s brainwashing regime, her comforting thoughts about “the procedure” begin to wane. What’s so wrong with listening to rock music and dancing with boys? Is love really catastrophic to a utopian society?

Things get even more confusing when she meets Alex, a mysterious young hospital security guard who sends her heart all aflutter. But it’s OK because the triangular scar on his neck proves that he’s “cured.” There’s no way she’ll contract the love virus…right?

As their relationship intensifies, Lena’s sheltered life begins to crumble. Her days as a normal teenage girl are numbered. And in a matter of days, her rainbow swirl of emotions will morph into a permanent state of gray. Should she go the safe route and adhere to the government’s rules? Or should she go with her gut and run away to the wilds, where the infected rebels (aka “the invalids”) live like animals? You’re going to have to read the book to find out!

Needless to say, the audiobook was definitely worth the five bucks. Though Delirium is classified as young adult, it’s much more existential than a lot of the books you’ll find on the contemporary fiction shelves. Looking back at a conversation I had with a Texas literature expert, I remember him saying there are a lot of books that have nothing happening on the page. Sure, there’s dialogue and action going on, but the energy just isn’t there. The great books – the ones that transport us to another reality– bring the story to life on every page. That’s what’s going on in Delirium. Lauren Oliver has clearly mastered the craft of writing – and I can’t wait to read what will happen next in Lena’s journey!