The second book in my pile was Anna and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. It has a pretty cover. Here, look:
I'm not good at summaries, but I craft a quick one:
Amy's dad died, tearing her family apart. Now her brother is in rehab, and her mother is making them move across the country, from California to Connecticut. It is Amy's job to drive the car across the country, with a nice family friend, who also happens to be a really hot boy, named Roger, who just broke up with his girlfriend, Hadley. Amy's mother planned out the whole route, but they decide to ignore it, taking an EPIC DETOUR instead. High jinks ensue. Romance happens. Lots of sappy moments. Wooo!
It was not my favourite book. Roger and Amy just didn't have it for me. But let me break it down. Let's start with Amy.
She is an actress, which was nice, since she made a million theatre references, which I loved (I laughed so hard at the "There are more awkward silences than in an Harold Pinter play" line. Who in the world would get that reference?). She was nice, and pretty, and, well, pretty generic. I liked how she was referring to "Amy!", but it got old fast. She seemed average, and actually kind of annoying. It's hard to pinpoint something in particular. She just felt kind of blah.
Roger (which, by the way, is a crap name, since it only made me think of abusive Roger from Sarah Dessen's Dreamland and abusive Roger from Where the Heart Is. Not good associations) was bland as well. I liked his taste in music, even if I didn't recognize many of the songs. But I thought the whole ex girlfriend thing was a little pathetic, in comparison to Amy's guilt over her father's death. Get over it man. The whole "goodbye" thing was a fun quirk (Roger can't say goodbye to people because he thinks he'll kill them), but there's wasn't much else that made him unique.
Since neither Roger nor Amy were well drawn characters, it makes sense that the romance wasn't very good either. There just wasn't any sexual chemistry
After we finally (inevitably) got over the whole ex-girlfriend thing, I still wasn't invested in this couple. In fact, for 70% of the novel I wasn't even sure I wanted them together, or even I was supposed to want them together, save for a few places where random characters would ask if they were together and they would awkwardly respond NO. I liked the actual moment, but I had no real investment beyond that. Blah. Blah. Blah.
The whole "scrapbook" element to novel was cool, mostly. I really liked the pictures and playlists and little notes, and, for the most part, they were well placed. There were a few that were annoying, placed in the middle of sentences, so I would forget what was just said and then have to skip back and then forward, and lose all flow or meaning. In that way, I would have preferred if the placement had been more thoughtful.
I also had an issue with the drama of it all. I'm not really into "issue books", which deal with dark subjects that allow the protagonist to be angsty, in this case, death (others: anorexia, drugs, self mutilation, suicide, mental health issues, some sort of injury)
I thought I'd be okay with it in this book, much like I could accept in Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, where death was handled well enough, and the other parts of the plot were engaging enough that it didn't matter. That was not the case. Amy was very, very angsty, which, in my opinion, didn't really fit in with the romance and general lightness of the novel.
I rarely say this, but it definitely felt like a debut novel. I read the author's bio at the back, which described how she had a BA in children's lit, which made perfect sense to me. It felt like the writer had studied good teen books (a la Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Meg Cabot, Ann Brashares, so-called masters of the genre) and identified what made each of them tick, and then applied them to her own book. Here is where I describe what the male lead looks like, lingering on it a bit, to make sure everyone knows to swoon over him. Here is where the protagonist denies that she has any feelings for said male lead, even though she clearly loves him. Here is where she feels angsty about her life. All very paint by numbers, where all the right things are there, but the without the passion or magic that makes a Dessen or Cabot or Caletti book special.
I also had a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet problem with this book, where the two leads fell for each other in five days. I said in my last review that Anna and the French Kiss had too much build up. Well, the EPIC DETOUR (I don't know why I like to capitalize that, but I do) had too little build up. It's was too quick, too generic, too predictable. It needed to have a spark.
With all the focus on the negatives, you probably think I hate this book. That's not true. But the parts that I liked are far less interesting than the parts I didn't like. Sorry.