Detour follows 18-year-old Ethan who embarks on a road trip shortly after his graduation. We learn that this was a trip Ethan had originally planned on taking with his boyfriend and love of his life Scott, who was murdered at school by a shooter. Ethan’s not really sure why he’s taking the trip though we do know that he’s still reeling from the loss of Scott so perhaps he’s hoping the trip will help him to figure out who he is without his boyfriend. It’s also worth mentioning that Ethan is suffering from a severe case of survivor’s guilt.
So it’s dark, the weather is bad, and Ethan almost runs over a hitchhiker. Despite his family’s repeated warnings of never picking up hitchhikers, Ethan offers the hitchhiker a ride. We learn that his name is Nick and that he also has his own demons he’s running away from. He has just left one of those “pray away the gay” type of camps called Camp Cornerstone and is basically homeless and broke. Funny, this is the second book right in a row that I’ve read which revolved around these types of compounds, a trope that I typically avoid.
Not only that, we learn that prior to Nick’s “enrollment” at Camp Cornerstone, he was in an abusive relationship with a controlling, stalkerish, and a rather creepy man named Kyle. That being said, Nick is the much more mistrusting and bitter of the two, given that he’s been betrayed by every important person in his life. It’s additionally worth mentioning that Nick has also experienced the death of someone close to him, which adds to the emotional turmoil he’s experiencing
So after having faith that neither of them is going to kill the other in their sleep (the topic of “stranger danger” comes up several times during the story), they decide to embark on Ethan’s road trip together. So basically, we have two characters who have gone through horrific events and who are basically broken — they’re both confused, hurt and trying to find themselves in a world that up to this point, has not proven to be overly kind.
WHAT I LIKED
I really enjoyed the dynamics between these two vivid and lovable characters. Though they were both hurting and perhaps a bit mistrustful, they both opened up to each other and throughout the trip, treated each other with kindness and respect — though it did take Nick somewhat longer to open up which isn’t surprising given that he’d been let down by everyone in his life up to this point.
But it was lovely to see the healing that took place with the both of them as they each helped the other work through the terrible events of their past and explored their grief together. I also really loved Ethan’s tender kindheartedness towards Nick, which I felt showed a lot of strength as a character.
There was a lot of enjoyable banter between the two of them, and both Ethan and Nick had a wonderful sense of humor which made me chuckle out loud on more than one occasion.
I also loved the slow burn romance aspect of this story, which I have to admit is one of my favorite tropes. I loved how the relationship between these two broken characters slowly developed over the trip, resulting not only in the blossoming of a new love but also in much-needed healing for the both of them. In fact, I felt that the entire story wasn’t at all rushed and unfolded at just the right pace. The author did a nice job at showing the relationship progress between Ethan and Nick.
I’m also a huge fan of road trip stories, and this one was no exception. It was fun experiencing through our characters all the zany and kitschy places they visited (Titanic museum and hotel, anyone?) and the adventures they had along the way.
But what especially worked for me in the story was the healing and growth these two characters experienced as we moved throughout the book. As their backstory unfolded and they confided more and more in each other, they both underwent several realizations and revelations that helped them grow as characters. Thus, they were able to overcome the adversity that had them both nearly paralyzed before they met.
In this way, Detour is about two lost souls finding themselves and not allowing their circumstances to prevent them from evolving into the people they’re meant to be.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Though I enjoyed the snappy banter between the two characters, there were a few times when I felt that it went on and on a bit too long. I did catch myself thinking on a few occasions that the non-stop snark was getting a bit tiring — maybe even grating on my nerves a bit – and felt that the story could have done with a little less of it.
I ended up loving this book. In the midst of darkness and turmoil, there is fun and humor, and I found myself laughing out loud several times throughout the story at the witty dialog that Detour throws at the reader. Though it will break your heart in places, it is also sweet and playful in others.
The writing is solid and clear, and the touching backstory helped us to know and understand each character’s motivation. I also felt that the characters themselves are meticulously developed, and as such, the reader truly feels the depth of their hurt and guilt and their past unfolds.
Detour is a powerful and revelatory coming-of-age novel of two boys trying to overcome their pasts, so in this way, it’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The main charm of this book is in it’s plain and simple relatability. Though we may not all have gone through the exact things as Ethan and Nick, the majority of us have at some point experienced heartbreak, grief or difficult circumstances that have kept us stuck.
All in all, Detour is a lovely sweet romance between two boys who, in working through their past demons, come out stronger on the other side and I loved it. I’d give this book 4 1/2 stars.
You can check out the book here on Amazon