In Once Upon a Road Trip, 18-year-old Angeli sets out on a journey to discover who she is, staying along the way with friends in Canada and various US cities who she has met online. All these friends turn out to be males living at home with their parents. Could she not have made a least one female friend online?
From this hopelessly naive premise comes an uneven novel that is based on the author’s true story. It is sometimes interesting and often preachy and hard to believe, which may prove that truth is stranger than fiction.
Maybe I am just cynical but I have a lot of trouble with this story.
A big problem is the preachiness that often forces its way into the story. The discussions about God do not flow smoothly into the plot to my ear and sound forced and unnatural.
The interactions between Angeli and the friends she meets start out fairly believable but get more unlikely as the story unfolds. The two boys she is most attracted to are Scott and Vince and these parts frankly just disturb this reader with a lot of really unnecessary angst.
Other parts of the story are also problematic but the main problem is that this is such an obviously bad idea. Staying with young men one has only met online in strange cities is just dangerous and dumb.
Also, Angeli has Mono when she starts on this journey. Why did the author even share this? This detail turns out to be completely irrelevant and just makes you wonder why her parents agreed to help her take this journey and just how smart she really is to try to drive thousands of miles alone when she is sick even if she hadn’t been going to stay with young men.
This book would have been much better if it had dealt more with the actual trip and the adventures Angeli had on the way and less with the relationships she had with the people she stayed with and their families because frankly even if you can accept such a naive and reckless premise, they often aren’t that interesting.
Also, what 18-year-old these days would get so uptight about kissing? Does it have to be a moral showdown every time Angeli shares any sort of physical contact with a boy? We aren’t talking about sex here. Even hand-holding is fraught with meaning.
And surely she realized that something more intense might happen in at least a couple of the places she stayed? She is female and these are teenage boys. The book is far more sedate than that situation would ever be likely to be and if this is the way it worked out for the author she was incredibly lucky.
It’s not a terrible book but it’s not a great one either. It has got some excellent online reviews so maybe younger readers are more accepting of this idea than I am. That is a scary thought, really.