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REVIEW: The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary

"Giving up your heart is scary, but doable if the other person does it at the exact same moment, like two soldiers lowering their weapons." (Pg. 109)

You know it’s going to be a good read when a book has Beth O’Leary’s name on it. As soon as I heard about The Road Trip, I needed it in my life, and lucky enough, I managed to win a proof via Quercus' clever ‘Road Trip Proof Hunt’ Twitter campaign! Around a week later, the book arrived, I sat down to read it and by the next morning, I’d finished it. Completely hooked.

Addie and her sister are travelling from Chichester up to Scotland for a friend’s wedding, but not long into their journey, a car slams into the back of them. Everyone is fine, but the second car is totaled - and that’s not even the worst of it. It turns out that Addie’s ex-boyfriend, Dylan, (who she hasn't seen in almost 2 years) and his best friend, Marcus, were in the car, also travelling to the same wedding. With no other way of getting there, they pile into Addie's mini with 400 miles in front of them.

Told in dual narration, with two timelines - the ‘then’ and ‘now’ - we follow the journey of Addie and Dylan’s relationship, and the eventful car ride up to Scotland, where the emotional baggage is as heavy as the real baggage in the car boot…

You’re intrigued by that, right? If so, good, because I cannot even explain to you how much I loved this book.

Let’s start with the narration. I love Beth O’Leary’s use of dual narration in her writing (which I commented on in my review of The Flatshare). There’s something fun about getting both Addie and Dylan’s perspective of their relationship, and it really helps to keep the book moving forward and to build up tension. The book itself has quite short chapters and changes often between Addie and Dylan’s narration, which really helped my reading speed (there’s nothing like a short chapter to keep you going!). One thing I noticed about O'Leary's chapter changes is how cinematic they are, often mirroring scenes between the past and present to allow easy transitions in the narrative. This lends itself really well to the humour of the book and amplifies the images in the reader's head - it feels like a book that will be a movie.

Not only do we have the dual narration, but we also have two timelines. These are: the ‘now’, aka the actual road trip that they are on, and the ‘then’, documenting Addie and Dyan’s relationship from meeting to breaking up. These two narratives coinciding together made such a perfect mix, illuminating why the present moment is so awkward and tense. I’m a big fan of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule and I think that this device of two timelines really takes that idea and runs with it. O’Leary shows the reader absolutely everything about their relationship that we need to digest what’s happening in the car at the present moment. Also, the two timelines means we get two different stories (and two different love stories might I add) in one, making this a fast-paced book that constantly keeps you interested. Once there's some interesting and tense action in one timeline, O'Leary shifts to the other, constantly keeping the reader on their toes.

The past narrative starts off in France during a long, hot summer. Addie really is living her best ‘hot girl summer’ when she meets Dylan and it is captivating to read and, well, steamy. Seriously steamy. And not in an uncomfortable, showing-too-much way, O’Leary manages to make a car journey full of five people have sexual tension. But even better, O’Leary has created a swoon-worthy character out of Dylan - an Oxford-educated, handsome, wannabe poet. Yes, he sounds like a total cliche, but he’s also a lot more than that - he is vulnerable, lost, and loving. Post-therapy Dylan is basically my dream guy. Addie is likeable too; headstrong, feisty, and ambitious, so it makes rooting for them easy. I enjoyed the class differences between Addie and Dylan, with Addie coming from a more "average" background, not understanding most of Dylan's pretentious cultural references. I think giving readers a relatable character works well to not alienate anyone, whilst also giving us literature nerds something to bounce off with Dylan.

One thing I really loved about the book, and this is a personal one, is that in the past narrative, when they first meet, Addie and Dylan have both just finished university. As someone of a similar age, I loved reading a book with characters my age. For me, this book has all the classic YA romance tropes but for a ‘new adult’ audience - us lot in our 20s who don’t quite fit into a category. Hurray!

This book is sexy, heartbreaking, and funny all rolled into one. If you’re looking for your ‘book of the summer’, this has to be it.

TW: This book contains references to alcohol addiction, depression, and sexual assault.

A few of my favourite quotes:

  • "He's so familiar that for a moment I feel like I'm looking at my own reflection." (Pg. 5)

  • "This is love, then. That explain a great deal about many irrational acts throughout history - every man who ever went towards must have really fancied somebody." (Pg. 115)

  • "Dylan was never the person I would turn to when I was upset. So it's not a habit thing. Back when we were together, he was the last person I'd choose to cry on - mostly because when I was crying, it was because of him, and he'd not have a clue I was even upset. That was how we worked. We were so close but we barely told each other anything." (Pg. 227)

Thanks for reading!

Kate x

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