Ellen Wittlinger, author of many other teen books including Hard Love, awes us with a realistic-fiction novel of hardships, a long distance relationship, the struggle of two vulnerable kids who have just lost their father and one cousin who wants to fix it all.
Robin and Chris have been a couple for two years now and have made plans to spend everyday of their last summer together. Chris’ parents offer him a trip for a summer learning program in Rome. The gift being too good to refuse leaves Robin crushed – all of their romantic plans automatically cancelled. Ironically, Robin’s aunt, Dory, whose husband died two years ago, offers her a spot on a road trip to Los Angeles, California, stopping everywhere in between. The catch is that Robin will have to take turns driving with her aunt and help out with her two kids, Iris and Marshall. Robin, however, unsure about dealing with her two annoying, stuck-up cousins decides to go along for the ride.
Along the way she finds out that her family is more crazy and problematic than she can remember. Iris, a thirteen year old girl, suffers from bulimia and obsesses over her weight constantly. Marshall, a ten year old boy, is petrified of the smallest things ever since his father was hit by a taxi while crossing the street. He draws to relieve stress and never wants to talk about the problems he faces. Dory, their mother, turns her head when her kids misbehave or show obvious signs of not being okay. She doesn’t want to admit that her life isn’t as perfect as it was when her husband was alive.
Throughout the trip, Robin becomes friends with both Iris and Marshall and wants to help them as much as she can. Along the way, Dory gets injured in a car accident and Robin is forced to become the parent for the remainder of the journey. Robin can’t continue to see her cousins suffering since their father died only two years ago. Robin takes on a lot of responsibility in one summer and learns something very important about herself; she is someone without Chris by her side.
This book was absolutely amazing, definitely worth the read! Wittlinger, the author, was descriptive and told the story well – as if we, too, had tagged along for the road trip. This book reaches out to young adults and teaches us about teen love, inner strength and moving on after a crisis. “Traveling takes you out of your usual routine and allows you to see other options for your life,” says Wittlinger on her book, Zig Zag.