Brief Background: Amy is a teenager whose life is at a crossroads. With her mother moving across the country from California to Connecticut, her father traumatically passing away in the months prior, and her estranged twin brother checked into an East Coast rehab facility, her summer isn't looking up. Fortunately, she has a road trip from the West to the East in the company of Roger, an old family friend. Gradually, as the unexpectedly long road-trip continues, Amy begins to re-find the person that she lost through the trauma of recent events.
What I Liked:
Concept: This was a fun, light, summer read. Admittedly, in Australia it is winter right now, so the whole "summer-road-trip" concept didn't really apply, but regardless, it was a simple plot to follow with minimal effort required. I liked that I could pick this novel up at any stage and pick up straight from where I left off, there was no complexities I would have to go back and re-read, and the characters were (in some ways) blessedly predictable. Being an eBook, this became my go-to work book which I could pick up on lunch breaks or in between tasks, and for that purpose, it was perfect.
Structure: Aside from the literary structure of clean, well grouped paragraphs with reoccurring motifs (fast-food discoveries, mottos of states, random friends of Rodger to bump into) the quirky playlists, notes and postcards littered throughout the book were playful and interesting. They piqued my attention when I felt myself getting into a reading slump with this particular book.
The History and Geography Lesson: Being from Australia, one of the most interesting parts of this book was experiencing snippets of American landscape through Matson's depictions of Yosemite, the surrounds of Utah, Colorado and Nevada and the lush, Kentucky mansions. Similarly, being a history buff, I adored the reoccurring explorer and 20 questions theme.
What I Didnt Like:
The Romance: I found the relationships between characters rushed, contrived and unsatisfactory. Additionally, complications such as the Roger/Hadley relationship/breakup were never fully explained or explored - it seemed that Roger was so desperate to see Hadley for the whole book only to forget about her 10 minutes after driving away from Kentucky. Similarly, any romantic attraction in the book for Amy lasts about 10 seconds before she either rebuffs or kisses the love interest, and for me, this just didn't seem realistic. I get that Amy was supposed to be growing as a character, taking more risks and learning to move past her traumatic experiences. But I think even the ultimate relationship pairing was so rushed and unexplained - there was absolutely no discussion between characters as to a mutual attraction or any tension build up at all. It felt fake, convenient and contrived.
Amy: I found it extraordinarily difficult to relate to Amy as a character. It wasn't that I didn't sympathize with her - her experiences were clearly very intense and obviously affected her personage and interactions with ancillary characters, but the way she reacted to things was extremely unpredictable and sometimes annoying. As a reader, it was difficult to tell whether Amy was ashamed and thus secretive, shy and thus secretive or depressed and thus secretive. Perhaps it was a combination of the three, but although you could see what Matson was trying to portray as Amy's greatest fear - revealing the true feelings towards the accident - it was never really explained why or how Amy had come to decide that shutting her feelings up and crying indiscriminately was the best course of action. I also really disliked Amy's blunt awkwardness, particularly at the start where she offered very little to the discourse and made the first 100 pages a bit of a chore. It was lucky this book was so easy to pick back up where you left off, because I did put this down a lot, and didn't have much of an urge to finish it.
Predictability: Honestly, this book is very formulaic. It sticks to the classic summer romance script and doesn't vary much from it. From reading the 'brief description' at the top of this review, you pretty much have all the hints you need to ascertain what the conclusion of the novel is going to be. The ending is underwhelming and frustrating, and I think that stems from the problem of predictability.
I would recommend this as an easy, filler read. Expect it to be slow at the start, and for the pace to pick up in the second half. If you can make it through the first 100 pages, you're all set for a predictable, yet fluffy ending.