There is something about putting your sunglasses on, hopping in a car and driving that just says summer. The music, of course, must be blasting. This means if you are listening to the eighties music that your dad puts on (seriously, I don't think I know anyone else, except perhaps my brother, who had whole albums of KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd music memorized before they hit the fourth grade), or country music, which, to me anyway, is practically created for the sole purpose of road trips. Even if you are not a country music fan, go on a road trip, find a country station (there will be at least one if you have half a radio signal) and just try listening to it. But you have your music, possibly a good friend and the road.
And, while there is something so beautifully summer about road trips, it is also an indisputable fact that there is also something inherently literary about road trips. I speak of course, of the undeniable metaphor that exists in road trips or even just trips in general. You know, the whole "it's not the destination, it’s the journey" sort of thing that likely appears on lots of cross-stitched pillows. But, while I may jest, there does in fact lay a kernel of truth. Many authors use these literal journeys to parallel metaphorical ones. The perhaps most obvious example would be Jack Kerouac's On the Road. (I would say more here, but I confess I have managed to let this sit on my to-be-read pile for far too long. But it is literally about a road trip and a quest for self-knowledge. Even if I had read it I think my point would be made). Another classic literary example is John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I did read this one. And I really wish I hadn't. It is my own personal opinion that if you actually loved this book, you are either a) an English teacher or b) a librarian. No mean to cause offense but this might literally be the book that I have liked the least of all of those that I have finished. But I digress, in the tale of the Joad's trip to California; there are undeniable themes of growth and starting over. For another, more contemporary example of road trips, we find John Green. He seriously loves his metaphors. Paper Towns has the most obvious road trip, and he has stated in one of his vlogs that he likes road trips because "they are a really good metaphor." (He has literally two thousand vlogs, so I really cannot point to which one, exactly this came from. But I promise it's there. Also, it may have been the inspiration for this post).
Without a doubt, road trips are deeply entrenched in the metaphors of finding yourself. But they are also light and fun, very summery. So, here are a few of my favorite books that feature a road trip:
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Okay, so this one is a not quite a traditional road trip. It starts when a girl gets a letter, or rather thirteen letters, in the mail from her aunt. Getting mail from aunts is a fairly normal thing, even if the number of letters isn't. But Ginny's aunt had died a while ago of brain cancer. And the first letter sends her off to London with nothing much more than a little bit of money and some vague instructions. From there, Ginny is sent on crazy adventure all around Europe just trying to follow her crazy aunt's instructions. This is a terrific read, and wonderfully fast paced, and it is light and funny, although it does have its serious moments. I most definitely give this (and actually all of Johnson's other books, really) five out of five stars.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
This one is a little more serious than Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. A while before the start of the book Amy's father died in a car crash and now the remainder of the family is packing up and moving cross-country. So, it is a road trip from California to Connecticut for Amy as soon as she finishes the school year with old family friend, Roger, to meet up with her mom. As you can guess by the title, things don't exactly go as planned. Filled with great detours, including a quick visit to Yosemite, an ill-advised trip through the desert, and a stop at Graceland, this book also tackles some more serious topics like the death of a parent and a brother who is in rehab. Really, as the road trip seems to imply it is all about picking up and moving on with your life, even when something catastrophic happens. It is equal parts light and serious and it is a wonderful book. I give this one 4.5/5 stars.
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
I'll be honest with you; it has been a really long time since I have read this book. But I do remember a tall girl who worked at a local shoe store, run by an old woman who, for some strange reason decides to enlist this random sixteen year old employee to drive her across the country to some conference in Texas (probably) in order to prevent the sale of her shoe-store empire to some corporate monster. And really, whenever you put an old lady in a car for an extended period of time…you know funny things have to happen. When I read this I most definitely gave the book a 5/5 stars. However, because it has been a while I will give it a 4/5 stars, just in case my past self was nicer about book ratings than my current self was (because I totally was). In any case, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I remember enjoying it.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Out of these four books this one is arguably my favorite. As with most of the other books it starts with the death of a close family member; in this case, Honor's brother, who was killed in Iraq. And, as in Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Honor receives a letter from her brother several days after his funeral. It contains tickets to a concert in California and seeing this as a last request she decides she has to go. So, armed with nothing more than her brother's Impala, her brother's (still slightly drunk) former best friend and her trusty red cowboy boots, Honor sets off. (Have you noticed that so many of these books started with dead family members? I think that it's because the road trip is essentially the grieving process, all tied up into one nice literary package. Also, many of these books have very interesting passengers. Because there needs to be some humor in these books that start with such a morbid beginning. Really, to me it is not just the deaths, or the comic relief, that makes these books, but the ways in which the authors combine them to create fun books that also border on the serious. In all honesty, that's why I love road trip books). Without a doubt, I give this book 5/5 stars. Even if it doesn't seem like something you'll like, its only about two hundred pages, so it's not much of a time risk, even though I promise that it is worth it.
And that's all for now. Hopefully you decide to try out one or more of these books, or even go on a road trip of your very own. After all, reading and road trips…isn't that what summer is all about?