Miss Riki’s Review:
Lillian is ready to start her last free summer before going away to college when she gets a strange voice mail message from her sort-of-friend Penny. Penny has faked her own kidnapping, and Lil is the only person in the world who knows the truth. Lil decides that in order to release herself from all liability, she must go in search of Penny and get her to turn herself in. Lil’s intentions are not altogether altruistic, however, as she sees the road trip as the ultimate chance to be alone with her best friend and love interest, Josh. Equipped with a car and a credit card, and with the police and FBI dogging Lil for information, Lil and Josh make a cross-country trip to retrieve Penny. Along the way they see epic sights and make memories. Somewhere in between the Mars Cheese Castle and the creepily fantastic House on the Rock, Lil tries to convince Josh that there’s more to their relationship than just being friends.
I had a really difficult time enjoying this book, mostly because I just couldn’t connect with either of the main characters. Lillian was a bit on the mean side and came across as sort of snooty, with the way she felt like she could elevate Penny’s social status and make her happier simply by offering the basic friendliness of an acquaintance. I disliked the way Lil talked about Penny in such a derogatory way and felt like she should have been more observant to the fact that Penny was obviously in a bad relationship and might have needed a real friend to help her out. It’s hard to root for a main character when she comes off as mean spirited.
I had an equally hard time seeing what Lil saw in Josh. He’s not a very well developed character, and until the very end of the novel, we don’t see anything to him except for a spoiled rich kid who has taken off with his dad’s credit card as a sort of revenge. Towards the end we get a little bit of explanation as to why he’s so vindictive towards his father, but it was too little too late for me. I had already spent most of the novel disliking him. He’s hot and cold towards Lil, and it was difficult to see him as a worthy love interest.
As for the main plot of the story- the road trip was actually a lot of fun. It was what redeemed the story for me. Lil and Josh do some pretty fun things on the road and see some crazy small town things. The author does a great job of capturing small-town America and the joys of a cross-country road trip.
In the end, I would have liked to see more done with Penny’s plot line in the book. The girl is in obvious distress over an abusive relationship and a messy home life, yet her story is really secondary to a lukewarm love affair between Lil and Josh. I feel like Penny got the short end of the stick, when in reality, her story is what was really drawing me in.
The book has some really nice moments, but it has enough issues to make me give it only three stars. I give it four stars for the road trip aspect, but three for the likability of the characters and the missed opportunity in Penny’s plotline.