I think I ordered this YA novel from the library because it was on the list of nominees for the Cybils, Young Adult Fiction category, and I had some grandiose idea of reading several of the books that were nominated in that category after finishing the Middle Grade Fiction list. The title of this particular novel begins with “A”, and it’s about a road trip. With a premise like that, how could it miss?
(I love road trip stories. It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Road to Rio with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Rain Man with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. The TV series Route 66. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. However, I’ve never actually read the classic American road trip book, On the Road by Kerouac, because I’m not much for trippin’ while trippin’.)
Talk about detours. Back to Amy and Roger. I loved this book right up until Maryland. Amy is a California girl, traveling across the USA in her mom’s red Jeep Liberty, with good looking college guy Roger, designated driver for said Jeep. The two are headed for Connecticut where Amy will deliver the car to mom, and Roger will take a train to spend the summer with his dad in Philly. Of course, the two are destined to fall madly in love and live happily ever after. But there are glitches. Roger has a girlfriend, or maybe an ex-girlfriend. Amy’s just recovering, or maybe not recovering, from some mysterious traumatic event which seems to have something to do with her father’s death a couple of months before the story begins. Amy’s not too perky. Roger’s still hung up on Hadley, the beautiful, rich ex. Roger drinks root beer, and Amy drinks cream soda (until she discovers sweet tea in Kentucky). Roger listens to Dashboard Confessional, Owl City, The Lucksmiths, and many, many others I’ve never heard of. Amy listens to, believe it or not, show tunes.
Roger and May’s Epic Detour Road Trip of Discovery was fun. They discover America’s loneliest highway in Utah. Amy takes pictures of trees. They eat in lots of diners. Roger’s friend, Cheeks, shows them the best of Wichita, Kansas. They picnic on a golf course. They spend the night in a honeymoon suite, the last vacancy in town. They spend another night in the Jeep Liberty in the Walmart parking lot. Unfortunately, when the twosome get to Maryland, they’ve worked through all their psychological problems and previous entanglements , and the only thing left to do is . . . of course, go to bed together. No, the Act is not described explicitly or salaciously. Yes, the very fact of the road trip having to end this way made the book change from a book I wanted to give my sixteen year old daughter with my recommendation into a book that I wished I could have given to my sixteen year old daughter without reservations or hesitation.
I have an entire post composed in draft form about the permutations that have occurred in the old “boy meets girl” plot line. My basic premise is that instead of boy and girl overcoming obstacles and eventually getting married and living happily ever after (or not, as in Romeo and Juliet), now they overcome obstacles and fall into bed together without benefit of clergy or marriage certificate. This change in young adult (and adult) fiction is not an improvement on the old formula, and although it may or may not reflect the culture at large, it’s a sad state of affairs. I aspired to commitment and marriage, and I certainly hope my children do the same.