Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

I usually don’t read too many contemporary novels but every now and then I pick one up because they’re light and fun and usually quick reads. When I first heard of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour the road trip part of the book was what got me really interested and it has been on my to-read list for a very long time. I thought it would be a nice summer read about two teenagers crossing America and falling in love but what I got was something slightly different.


Amy has just ended school for the summer and it has been a tough one. After her father passed away in a car accident in March, Amy’s twin brother Charlie was sent to rehab so he could deal with his drug problems while their mother decided that they should leave California and move to Connecticut. Her mother already in place at their new house across the country, Amy is tasked with bringing their car to the east coast but Amy is not alone. Her mother has asked an acquaintance’s son to drive with Amy on a trip that’s supposed to take four days. Amy and Roger, however, have a different idea.

I actually hate road trips myself and I’m not very fond of traveling either but for some reason I kind of like reading about it. The road trip in The One plus One by Jojo Moyes was very nice and so I thought I would enjoy this too. However, due to anxiety when I travel myself, certain parts of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour made me uncomfortable. This is of course because of me and not the book but it was a surprise nonetheless. But it turned out that this was only a tiny problem compared to the actual story.

Amy is seventeen I believe and Roger is nineteen. Amy’s mother thought that they would get across the country following her immaculate itinerary without any problems and seemed to forget that she was talking to two teenagers. The mother in this story is my real problem, a character that isn’t actually featured very much but still has a huge impact on the story. I think she handled so many things wrong that I had a hard time enjoying the book because my energy seemed to go to her and all the weird things and choices she did.

First of all, Amy’s father died in a car accident and Amy believes she is responsible for it. She also believes that her mother blames her for it and that her brother left her when he in reality was sent away to rehab pretty much without a say. The mother doesn’t talk to Amy about what and how she feels after the accident and tells the siblings that they will be moving across country one day only for a FOR SALE sign to appear on their lawn the next, without ever asking or discussing it with either sibling. After Charlie is at rehab the mother then leaves Amy alone at their house, with so many memories, when she starts the move to Connecticut in advance so that she can be there when Amy arrives after school is out. That means that Amy is left alone for a month without anyone to talk to, having to take care of herself three months after the death of her father, that she blames herself for, with only an aunt looking in on her from time to time. The mother then springs the road trip on Amy a week before it’s supposed to happen, even though Amy hasn’t driven since the accident and dislikes even being in a car at all. Roger is practically a complete strange, a guy Amy met and played with when she was little but doesn’t remember. The fact that her mother thinks all of this is a good idea is either not believable at all or just incredibly scary. Leaving your daughter alone two months after her father died and then forcing her on a car ride for four days seems like such a bad idea I can’t believe she actually went through with it.

But the mother isn’t the only problem in this book. Amy, a girl I want to feel sorry for, is so annoying I don’t know where to start. She keeps saying that the accident killing her father was her fault, leaving hints here and there for the reader to ponder over. She isn’t excited about the road trip at all and when she sees Roger she realizes it will be even worse because he’s so good looking. I have no idea why that’s a problem, especially since she later mentions that she thought from the first moment she saw Roger that he had a girlfriend. She wants me to feel sorry for her after she lost her virginity to a guy who she said didn’t care about her even though it was her idea and he clearly wanted to talk to her about it before and after but she stormed out of his room and stopped talking to him.

This all makes me wonder if author Morgan Matson has lost someone close to her or if she just made all of this up because nothing feels believable for me. I know everyone grieves in different ways but I have a hard time believing that a seventeen year old would be allowed to live by herself right after her father passed away, that no one at her school took time to make sure that she was taken care of or had a therapist to talk to. Amy is basically left alone after this horrible accident, she wants to be by herself, alienates all her friends and completely turns inward which is all normal but I can’t believe no grown-up in her surroundings would stand by and watch all of this happen without doing anything. The only real encounter with people Amy has outside of school is the realtor who shoos Amy out of the house many days when she’s trying to make a sale and redecorates the home, not least Amy’s room. I don’t know how things work in America but I don’t believe it’s like this so I can only guess that Matson is trying to make me feel sorry for Amy and feel her pain but all she does is make me annoyed.

When it comes to the other characters, Roger is obviously playing a big role. He’s driving with Amy and they spend all their time together but he has an ulterior motive in the trip, besides making it to Philly where he will spend the summer with his father. Roger and his girlfriend just broke up and now he’s trying to find out what really happened between them, a side-story that wasn’t too interesting. At one point he and Amy sleep over at his college and Amy meets friend of Roger’s named Bron who takes to Amy so fast that it again, does not feel believable. They stay just one night yet Bron takes it in her own hands to not only throw out basically all the clothes in Amy’s suitcase but also gift her with a bunch of Bron’s things. This is something Amy doesn’t find out about until their on the road and despite this being a nice gesture from Bron I only think it’s crazy, weird and actually rude.

Few things felt like they could actually happen in this story, so much was so obviously made-up and fake that the book lost all meaning to me. There was basically no romance at all in the first 200ish pages and Amy, obviously, focused a lot on her father which gave the novel an overall heavy and sad feeling rather than light and sweet, like I’d hoped for (note that I didn’t know about the death of Amy’s father before I started reading this book, I only thought it was about a road trip). It was, overall, not a book I enjoyed and not one I would recommend either. I believe there are way lovelier contemporary and enjoyable road trips out there. Just leave this one and pick something else up instead.

Firewalker

We return to Salem yet again to meet Lily Proctor. Now she’s back from the parallel universe where her double, Lillian, kidnapped and brought her to months ago. It was here that Lily learned that she’s a witch, and a powerful one at that, and that the reason for all her allergies in her own world is because her body works differently because of her powers. In her own world, Lily was sick but in Lillian’s world, Lily thrives. She’s taught how to use her power by two of Lillian’s former mechanics, people that works as vessels for a witch’s magic, and soon Lily is almost as strong as Lillian. But Lillian brought Lily to her world to replace her since Lillian is very sick. However, Lily has a hard time accepting the choices and decisions Lillian has made and in an epic battle between the two witches Lily accidentally sends herself home to her own universe, along with one of her mechanics and also her love interest, Rowan.

Now Lily is back where she belongs but Rowan is not. Despite the fact that they love each other they both keep secrets from one another, secrets that can change not just their relationship and what they feel for each other but also a whole universe. While Rowan is certain that Lily never can, and never should, return to his world he knows that he can’t stay in hers. He plans to leave her in order to go back to his people and rejoin the war that he and Lily fought together, but left by accident when Lily worldjumped. Lily, on the other hand, has had secret conversations in mindspeak with Lillian ever since she returned to her own world were Lillian has showed Lily the reasons for everything she’s done. Lily knows that if Rowan ever found out that she was talking to Lillian, and at times even understood and agreed with her, he would never forgive Lily. But deep down Lily knows that understanding Lillian is understanding herself, something she has to do. For when it comes down to it, Lily and Lillian is the same person in different circumstances and if Lillian can make mistakes in one universe Lily is bound to repeat them, something neither of them wants. But to fully understand Lillian means to return to Rowan’s world again. But this time she isn’t alone.

I will say again that I really like this plot and that author Josephine Angelini has something interesting going on. However, I do see a difference between Firewalker and its predecessor Trial by Fire. Sometimes when you read a series, the sequels does not look back on the previous book or remind the reader about things like what that certain phrase means or who that person is. This can be really annoying but it’s not the case in Firewalker. Angelini takes her time to explain to the reader all the things that might have been forgotten, if you read each book right after it was published and thus is left with a year-long gap between two installments. I just reread the first book last week so it’s all fresh in my mind but I always appreciate when writers do this and when they make it sound natural and not give a summary of an entire book in the first few pages of the sequel.

What did bother me, however, was how much Lily repeated herself. It wasn’t just that she kept thinking and saying things she already thought and said in the first book but she did it with things that had already been mentioned in Firewalker as well, which bothered me most. For example, she is on the fence when it comes to talking to Lillian but does it nevertheless yet is always saying how much it would hurt Rowan if he found out. The constant repeating of this was so annoying and she kept doing it with a lot of other things as well. I can’t tell if Angelini lost her path in the beginning of the book or if she just thought it was a good idea to shove it down my throat to make sure I really understood. I did understand and I feel that much of Lily’s ramblings early in the book could’ve been cut out.

This is also the book when Lily not only has to confront the Tristan from her own world, whom she’s been friends with since she was little. Right before she was kidnapped by Lillian Tristan cheated on her and they had a big fight. Now she’s back with Rowan by her side and during the time she was gone Tristan went through a lot, not least an extensive police investigation since it was believed that Tristan, one of the last people of seeing her before she disappeared, might’ve hurt Lily and possible even killed her. Tristan is kept in the dark when it comes to Lily’s return and it angers him but eventually they make up and Lily is forced to tell Tristan about her being a witch. Rowan explains that the Tristan in her world has the same talent as the one in his own and that she should make Tristan one of her mechanics.

Along with Tristan Lily claims two other friends named Breakfast and Una after Rowan suggests it, all so that Lily will be surrounded by a coven and people capable enough to take care of her if she’s hurt, especially after he leaves her. Lily is reluctant at first but her three friends are excited and accept Lily being a witch, that she’s been in a parallel universe and that they all have magical talents extremely quickly. So fast, in fact, that I was truly surprised. Not one of these three people stopped for a single moment to question anything Rowan or Lily said and went along with everything without a second thought. Seeing how many people in Rowan’s world who had trouble accepting not only parallel universes but also that Lily was actually from one it felt strange that her friends accepted it straight away. It did not feel believable, especially not since it had been so hard for Rowan to come to terms with Lily’s existence. I almost got the feeling that Angelini was so eager to get the story to move forward that she just skipped the part of her characters having common sense.

This is still a good book but I don’t think it’s as good as the first novel in the trilogy. Maybe because the first one mainly took place in Rowan’s world and that it was exciting to see a place to vastly different from our own and meeting people that didn’t exist in Lily’s world. I did think it would be fun to see Rowan in Lily’s world and while it certainly was it wasn’t as great as I’d imagined. In comparison to the first novel this was just good, not great, but I am still very excited to see where Angelini is taking the story in the final part of the series, Witch’s Pyre.

Trial by Fire

It seems like this is the year when a lot of series ends and Josephine Angelini's Worldwalker series is not an exception. In anticipation of the last novel in the trilogy, Witch’s Pyre, I decided to reread the first two books. I have fond memories of them both and especially Trial by Fire and I happily discovered that it was just as good as I remembered it.

Lily Proctor is a seventeen year old girl who spends a lot of time at hospitals and is constantly sick due to her many allergies. She lives alone with her mom, who is the laughingstock of Salem since she’s crazy, after her father left and her sister Juliet moved away to study. Lily’s only real friend is Tristan, they’ve known each other since they were small but Lily has always felt something more for him and now it seems that Tristan finally feels the same way about her. But after a high school party gone way wrong, Lily is left friendless and heartbroken. When she hears her own voice in her head offering her an escape from her world, Lily thinks she’s going crazy just like her mother, only to end up in a different Salem, a parallel universe so very different from her home. In this alternate Salem, witches runs the world and Lily finds out that her alternate self, Lillian, is the most powerful witch of them all. In order to go back to her own world again, Lily has to embrace the power within her and she teams up with two of Lillian’s former mechanics to do so, one of which is Tristan’s alternate self. Together they plot how to get Lily back and how to stop Lillian from ruining their entire world, but Lily’s appearance in the alternate Salem causes a lot of attention and everyone wants a piece of her but all Lily wants is to go back home. But can she stand by and watch her alternate self kill thousands of people for no apparent reason or will she take a stand against Lillian?

I love this book for many reasons. The obvious ones are the plot and the writing, which are both excellent. Lily lives in a world pretty much identical to our world but the parallel Salem she ends up in is vastly different. Some parts are medieval and some are futuristic, giving the city an overall cool and fascinating look. A girl from our world thrust into something as different as that alternate world was very interesting to read about and I loved how Lily met alternate versions to people she knew from home and also met people who doesn’t exist in her world. Lillian is Lily’s double and at first look seems to be the villain of the story but the deeper you delve into the pages the more you learn about Lillian and that she, in fact, might do a lot of evil things for all the right reasons. As you can tell, this is definitely a story that questions what’s right and wrong and what you have to do to survive, what you need to sacrifice for the greater good. It's a lot about morals, it makes you think and see that there’s good and bad in everyone.

The writing, as I said, is good. Angelini makes certain parts fun and others very serious. She makes you laugh and cringe, she creates friendships and romances with ease and makes you care about the characters effortlessly. She cleverly weaves big questions into the plot, sometimes disguising problems from our own world in her story making the reader think about our planet and what we can do to make this a better place to live. I found that there was a very serious undertone that I think will help people open their eyes to what’s wrong here, on Earth.

When it comes to the characters, Angelini has an arsenal of strong ones to carry this story forward. Lily and Lillian is very similar but still not identical although both are stubborn, hard workers and not afraid of giving their heart and soul for something they care about. Tristan and his alternate self is different, with alternate Tristan being more mature and also the one of the two that you get to see most of. Tristan from Lily’s world is more childish and I thought it was fun to see how alternate Tristan could see things in clearer ways than Lily’s Tristan could. Together with alternate Tristan, Rowan is Lily’s mechanic and someone who doesn’t exist in Lily’s world. Rowan used to be Lillian’s head mechanic but after a falling out he left her, despite the fact that they loved each other. When Lily enters alternate Salem and meets Rowan he’s pissed at her, thinking at first that she’s Lillian and later that she’s just like Lillian but eventually a romance springs up between the two. Rowan is strong, capable and mature in a way that Lily has never seen in a nineteen year old in her own world. She’s intrigued by him and as a reader it’s impossible not to be as well.

It was fun, and nice, to see that this novel was everything I remembered it to be even though it is a year and a half since I read it the first, and so far only, time. I really like this series and I am curious to see what the last book has in store but I also can’t wait to delve into the second one and refresh my memory completely before I pick up Witch’s Pyre.