With her family ripped apart by a tragic loss, Amy is instructed by her absent mother to drive their car across country from California to Connecticut, ready to leave behind all their memories and start afresh. But Amy doesn't do driving anymore, so a travel companion is foisted upon her, a long forgotten family friend and college sophmore, Roger. Both carrying baggage of the metaphorical kind, they decide to take a little detour from the itinerary and make a fair few discoveries about themselves in the process.
Two words that I associate with North America and travel - ROAD TRIP! Ok, three words - ROAD TRIP BABY! (the baby bit is very important). Apart from having a strong hankering for an indulgent long weekend in NYC, my main desire for travel in the US of A consists of hitting the open road, Thelma and Louise- stylee. So it was with great excitement that I picked this one up after it was recommended to me by several bookish folk.
Even on the interstate, there were green, rolling hills on either side of the car, for as far as the eye could see. It looked like pictures I'd seen of Ireland, but I had no idea that parts of my own country looked like this. It hit me once again just how big America was, and until now, how little of it I'd seen.
And I loved it. This was an engrossing one day read with the lot - romance, chemistry, tragedy, big old Southern mansions, topiary, bitchy beauty queen types and fast food. (god, the food! Why do we not have region-specific fast food chains in the UK? The only one I can think of is Greggs, but they're everywhere now anyway. And they're not really the same. Or do we have more? Am I missing something?). Like I said, THE LOT. It also has some wonderful little extra story-telling devices - handwritten notes for their travel journal, copies of room reservations, Roger's state-by-state playlists. And that boy has some impeccable taste in music. The only downside of this was that I was reading it on my Kindle and I really did need some reading glasses to the power of a million to decipher some of these notes. Maybe one to read on good-old fashioned paper, I reckon.
I was particularly impressed with the well-drawn out characters. Amy was great. Her awkwardness and matter-of-factness were brilliantly done. This could so easily have come across as annoying but she was very realistic and empathetic. We learn a lot less about Roger and I would maybe have liked a little more as he did come across as a bit bland on occasion. But this was really Amy's story, so that was I guess that was unavoidable for the most part.
It won't be a complete shock or particularly spoilery to mention that there is romance involved. The build up is EXCELLENT. Perfectly pitched with spine-tingling chemistry in buckets. My only criticism of this was that the pay-off was a little...'was that it?' MORE PLEASE.
My only other gripe was the use of flashbacks. Yes, they gave us a lot of information and were, in general, fairly short, but they did slow the pace right down. The writing was skillful enough in the present day chapters for this reader to get the required emotion and the impact Amy's past was having on her actions. Also, the foreshadowing could be a little heavy-handed on occasion. Lots of bits about 'letting go' felt about as subtle as day-glo pink sledgehammer.
Anyway, this was perfect YA in every other respect. Perfect travel YA, in fact, so perfect for me!
Despite the length, there's something about 'the loneliest road in America' that appeals. Why am I drawn to all the dark stuff? I really am a shiny, happy person, honest *does cheeky, chirpy cockerny knees up dance* Living in the UK, I love going to BIG spaces where you can properly see the stars at night. Loving the large expanses here. And the food! Yes, for me, travelling is about eating as much as seeing, and this had that in spades. I've never really associated North America with unusual cuisine, but this book mentioned so much yummy stuff that I simply must try one day. NOM. NOM.