Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Walcott: Tomorrow will be better.
Amy: But what if it’s not?
Walcott: Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know right? At some point tomorrow will be better.

Short summary: Amy’s father died, her brother is in rehab, and now her mother is relocating the family from California to Connecticut. Having moved first, mom needs Amy to bring the car over; however, due to trauma related to her father’s death, Amy doesn’t want to be behind the wheel. In comes Roger, a childhood friend who needs to visit his father in the East Coast, thus is tasked to drive the car. Though her mom has thoroughly planned their itinerary by mapping their route, booking the hotels for them, and expecting them to stick to her arrangement, the kids have their own plan. Thus begin one of the most memorable road trips ever.


Love, love, love, love this book. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable ones I have read this year.

This book definitely falls in “Book That I Wished Will Never End” category. It is the perfect Young Adult book – light, easy-to-read writing, with appealing characters and interesting storyline. I am also a sucker for travel stories, so this particular book about a long road trip across the US scores some bonus point in my book (also, bonus points for the road trip play list. You can’t have a road trip without good music!). The scrapbook elements featured in the book is also cute and interesting and I also love their encounters with the other secondary characters, especially Roger’s friends.

If you have read enough Young Adult book, you’ll find that a lot of books featured boy-meets-girl story, which I greatly enjoyed in principle, as long as the book does not feature the following:

1. when the girl immediately swooned over the guy (who is always somehow the bad boy in the neighborhood) the instant she laid eyes on him
2. the girl and boy falls crazy, crazy, crazy in love (note the emphasis on crazy) barely a few days after meeting each other
3. the boy is some hundreds-years old sparkling vampire and the girl is the most helpless heroin ever (yeah, I am talking about Twilight)

Yes, I love a story that makes me all giddy and warms my heart, but an author should at least establish a good reason/foundation/storyline on how the characters become attracted towards each other. Don’t just put a hot boy with issues and a girl who somehow always thought she was not pretty when she actually is and expect us to believe they are in love when nothing barely happens between them. Unless the writing is exceptional and poetic (case in point: Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, which fulfill the first two criteria above, but I absolutely love the poetic, flowing words of the author, so I cut the book some slack) or the book features some really amazing twist in the storyline, most Young Adult book leaves me disappointed when it comes to dealing with this instant love crap.

So that’s why Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is rather refreshing. Both characters are dealing with their own personal baggage in the story, and these become a good window in learning about their personality and dilemma. The setup was perfect – spending four days in a car ride with someone, you’ll bound to learn a lot about the other person – thus the friendship that grows between the main characters is structured in a believable way, that towards the end, I was the one willingly wanting for something to happen between the two of them. It was as if you are rooting for your two best friends, who you can see are just so perfect for each other, to fall in love.

(They do did something that I think is rather soon at that point of their relationship, which I am not going to elaborate here for it is a spoiler. That's my only beef with the story, but I'll forgive that)

If you like this kind of Young Adult novel or just looking for something light and fun (but not crappy) to read, I highly recommend this book. I find Ms. Matson is such a good storyteller too, so I am looking forward to check out her future book as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Travelogue Cambodia (July 2011): Introducing... Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a city that moved at a leisurely pace, almost slow motion, despite the throng of tourists bargaining at the market, marveling at the ancient temples, snapping photos with their all-powerful camera as if the moment will forever be forgotten had they not capture it at that particular second. It was July and unbelievably hot. I was literally melting.

It is a city that thrive from its past. The sprawling complexes of temples, still proud and erect, still defying the forces of nature - water, sun, jungle - that are slowly eating them away. Its past was the reason people come from all over the world. It was supposedly the low season, but the crowd that trampled across the sacred ground of Angkor Wat was, already to my standard, huge. I can't imagine how the place looks like in the height of tourist season. Would one be able to feel lost among the grand stone structure? Would one be transported to the past, imagining ghosts of past priests and kings and villagers roaming around, when one was surrounded by touring groups chattering away in French, Dutch, English, Japanese, and pretty much all major languages of the modern languages?

It is a city that despite it's popularity, is still holding back. There are a couple of modern boutiques, bars, and restaurants - obviously catering to the foreigners - concentrated in the city center, but not yet overwhelming. Perhaps in a few short years, the modernity and tourism are going to go full-blast, and new buildings, squarish and common, are going to loom over the beautifully carved venerable temples. Perhaps. But as of now, the vibe that envelops the city comes from three or four decade backs, as if time has not move much since then, and it fits Siem Reap perfectly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Travelogue Dubai & Oman (Oct 2011): The Three Amigos

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles – Tim Cahill

Oman and UAE are never high on my places-to-go-before-I-die list (a list which currently includes Bhutan, Maldives, New Zealand, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, Tibet, Austria, Kashmir, Jordan, Korea… among others. It is quite long, aahh). If not for my two dearest friends who reside there, I probably would never arrived.

But as Aldous Huxley said, “ To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries”. With the power of observation, even mundane sights become enlightening, and the people become entertaining to watch. There is always something to discover and new things to learn in a foreign land – no matter how ordinary a city is, if you open your eyes and heart, you bound to be what you aim to be: a traveller.

But most of all, sometimes, it is not so much of the destination that make or break a trip. It is the companion that you keep. You could have been anywhere, but with the right person next to you, it would have been a trip of a lifetime.

So thank you girls, for such a wonderful, wonderful time. Thank you for all the hospitality and pampering (never knew it is so nice NOT to backpacking and living in a hostel for once, hahaha) and great meals (I gained 2 kg, thank you very much). Thanks for the love.