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Head Out On The Highway

A book review of Antony John's Thou Shalt Not Road Trip, a story about faith, falling in love, and finding yourself on the road.

Head Out On The Highway

BOOK REPORT for Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John

Cover Story: Collage
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit… of Biblical Proportions
Bonus Factors: Route 66, Faith
Relationship Status: I'll Travel With You

Cover Story: Collage

I love this cover. It's fun and busy, but doesn't scream YA. PLUS, everything on it pertains to the book.

The Deal:

Luke Dorsey is starting out on a cross-country book tour with his older brother Matt, who is replacing Luke's publicist at the last minute, due to a scheduling conflict. Luke is okay with this. He's okay with anything, really, because ever since the collection of parables he wrote for the little kids at church camp turned into a national best seller, his life has been completely out-of-control-bonkers. He's not even sure what happened, really, except that he first started writing those parables at a time when he felt he was the happiest kid in the world, and then by the time he finished them, he was the most devastated he'd ever been. But his words seemed to mean a lot to people, so all he could do was try to encourage them, and continue along his path, which, right now, was heading across the U.S.

Luke's agnostic brother Matt has some inconvenient surprises in store, however, in the form of including his girlfriend in the trip, AND her little sister -- with whom Luke had until very recently, been in love -- and some detours along the road. Some of these detours may make Luke late for his signings, and others will start out testing his patience, but end up both testing and teaching Luke what it really means to have faith and be the person he wants to be, while avoiding the pitfalls of his own mistakes and learning that when a person gains success, there are lots of people who want to see them fall.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Luke is so sweet and idealistic and he tries. So. Hard. to be good, to do what's right -- even think what's right. Aaaand, he reminds me of myself at his age. And people like Luke and young Jenny are so caught up in following the rules that we often missed the cool things that were happening around us. And we were often up on our high horse when other people failed to reach the standard we held for ourselves. So, as you might imagine, there were many wince-worthy moments, when I saw him making choices I might have made at his age, but that were the WRONG ones, and times when I sighed in annoyance at him. But luckily for Luke, he is surrounded by people (namely Fran -- who deserves a platinum BFF charm of her very own -- I see you, Fran!) who constantly challenge his thought process, which brings him down to earth, and by the end, I was smiling contentedly, proud to have him as a BFF.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

The love story in this book is fraught with mistakes and misunderstandings and in that way is so real and raw that it's at times both beautiful and heart breaking. Luke is a romantic to a fault, and at first doesn't even realize that the way he viewed Fran was so quixotic that he was just asking for trouble. As the story unfolds, the author shows how our relationships with the people who are important to us mold us as much as the foundations of our belief systems.

Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit… of Biblical Proportions

Luke's voice felt completely authentic, from its times of self-loathing to its self-righteousness, and I honestly haven't connected to a protagonist's highs and lows this much since John Fante's Ask The Dust. Perhaps it's because I read this book on a plane, but I felt like it really was taking me on a grand adventure -- from the bubbling excitement to all of the mishaps -- and I enjoyed every page.

John also inserts a lot of humor, both in his story and through the use of excerpts from Luke's parables:

Mishaps 3:4-9

4. Four days did the boy suffer.  And lo, on the fifth day, he stood his ground and asked the bully, "Why do you bully me, bully?"  And the bully spake thus: "I don't know.  It's what bullies do, right?" 5. And the boy heard these words, and was much troubled by them.  "But would it not profiteth you to sow love, not hate?" he asked.  "To salve, not hurt?" 6.  And the bully thought about this.  And thought about this.  And thus did several seconds elapse.  7.  And the boy knew that his words had been received by the bully's open heart, and said: "For disagreement is sadness.  And accord is joy.  Therefore let us help one another, that we may all be joyful."  8. And the bully bowed his head, and left the boy alone.  9.  Until Monday.

Bonus Factor: Route 66

No lie, I have always, ALWAYS wanted to road trip Route 66. Or what's left of it. Getting to see all of the weird and the wonderful, the skeletons of bygone America, and the strange beauty of the desert sounds like one of the best trips ever.

Bonus Factor: Faith

So this is a story about a boy and his faith. And that faith happens to be of the Christian variety. However. HOWEVER!!! Not once did I feel like this was a sneaky Jesus book. Not once did I feel like the author was trying to prosthelytize. In fact, I have no idea what the author's religious leanings are, if they even exist. Because they don't matter to the telling of the story, which highlights real honest-to-god faith, and those who doubt it, and those who misuse it.  So while I do think this story will appeal to people who do believe in Luke's God, it should also appeal to the spirituality in all of us.

Casting Call:

Evan Peters as Luke

I think Evan would handle Luke's sincerity and his awkwardness perfectly.  Even though, judging by how much I cast him, I apparently think that a lot.

And who could handle the many complexities of Fran?  Who else?

Dakota Fanning as Fran

Relationship Status: I'll Travel With You

Picking travel companions is probably one of the most important things a person about to embark on a road trip will do, because things can get tough when you're trapped in a car, traveling in strange lands for days.  That's why, the next road trip I take, I'm calling up this book.  Because I know that even though there might be bumps in the road, (wah-wah) I can't think of anyone else I'd rather share an adventure with.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Thou Shalt Not Road Trip comes out this Thursday, April 12.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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