Grief propels two teens on a reckless road trip.
To better understand his long-gone biological mother, Anna, 18-year-old Tupper, a white Midwestern football player and soulful artist, retraces her epic last journey, equipped with her old car and cryptically annotated cartoon-illustrated map. In Utah, he picks up teenage hitchhiker Langley, recently escaped from a psychiatric ward. Haunted by her sister Sarah—although the ghost’s independent existence and sentience remain frustratingly ambiguous—half-Malaysian/half-white Langley travels with Tupper and serves as the jock/artist’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl and melancholy muse. Working through their abandonment issues, the teens find feverish romance but little real familial resolution. Anna shares narrative duty with Tupper and Langley, her addiction-fueled descent unfurling in reverse chronology, but her chapters provide no character depth. Additionally, Langley often reads like an object for Tupper's affection rather than a complex, fully realized person. Overcrammed with issues—sexual harassment, mental illness, addiction—and punctuated by the illogical (occasionally illegal) grand dramatic gestures of a rom-com, the teens’ tale reads as TV-movie fodder rather than a realistic journey of self-discovery or a sensible, sensitive coming-of-age. But Taylor’s (Hiro Loves Kite, 2018, etc.) biggest obstacle is trying to convey graphic-novel artwork and conventions through plain prose, resulting in all tell, no show.
A torrid if trite travelogue. (Romance. 14-18)