Another book I heard about at Texas Book Festival is Kissing in America by Margo Rabb. Eva is a super smart sophomore in high school who is carrying a lot of grief around with her since the sudden death of her father two years ago. She is also falling in love for the first time and learning that it isn't exactly like the love in the 118 romance novels she has read. Actually she is obsessed with romance novels, particularly the historicals, even though everyone around her gives her a hard time about it, especially her resolutely feminist mother. When the boy that Eva loves moves from where she lives in Brooklyn to Los Angeles, she devises the most elaborate road trip so that she can see him. Joining her is Annie, her even smarter best friend, who is focused only on winning The Smartest Girl in America, a new game show, and getting in to MIT, but who also has a guilty pleasure of absorbing all the trashy celebrity and reality TV gossip she can.
(She liked to read about "Stars--They're Just Like Us!" and molecular biology simultaneously.)
I like road trip books quite a lot because I enjoy the idea of seeing the country, or even the world, and learning about oneself at the same time. The first thing someone says to the girls on the first leg of their trip is how they have to try the chili in Cleveland, served over spaghetti. They think this sounds disgusting, but then the person says :
"Most people you know, they want to stay in their little house and not change nothing. But when you hit the road....Everything you ever thought about the world is wrong. That's why you gotta travel. I'm telling you this cause you're young. You got time. You gonna eat chili on spaghetti, right? You gonna see the world, right?"
This is good advice for anyone, road trip or not. We become so accustomed to our own lives that we forget there is a whole world out there we've never seen, so many things we've never known.
I was especially thrilled when the route took the girls through Tucson. We lived in Tucson for nine years and I can't tell you how much we loved it. When people ask if we'd ever go back, I always answer with, "In a heartbeat." Eva loves it as well.
I'd liked Texas's giant dome of a sky, it's rolling hills and endless endless endlessness; I'd liked Cleveland and Tennessee and the swirling scenery of every state we rode through-- but I fell in love with Tucson.
I know exactly what she means. Reading her describe it made my heart swell and it was so fun reading about all the landmarks she visits. It's how I imagine people who live or have lived in New York feel reading all the countless books set in New York.
My favorite part of road trip novels is watching the characters grow and change as they near the end of their trip. Eva learns to stand up for herself and she decides to stop being embarrassed by her romance novels. She sees the people she knows in deeper dimensions and reaches deeper within herself as well. Particular to this book is the growth Eva makes in dealing with her grief. She is devastated by the loss of her father, but she finds new ways to deal with her pain. This was a cute book, but it also has practical applications that could be very useful to its readers.
Read it and start planning your next road trip. May I recommend Tucson?