Title: The Road Trip
Author: Beth O’Leary
Release Date: April 29th, 2021
Genre: Adult – Contemporary – Romance
My rating in stars:
My rating in words:
I liked it, but didn’t vibe with it
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.
But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.
Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…
Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly… is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
As a huge fan of Beth O’ Leary previous novels The Flatshare and The Switch, I was eagerly awaiting her third book, The Road Trip. Because other than a fan of Beth O’Leary, I also LOVE road trips, so this was a sure win in my mind. But, though I can appreciate the book as a whole and I definitely applaud the writing, this story and characters just didn’t do it for me as much as I had hoped. So let me try and explain with a simple overview of what I liked a lot and what I liked less:
What I liked a lot:
Road trip shenanigans. The story is told in the ‘then’ and the ‘now’, with the ‘now’ being the road trip. Addie and her sister Deb are en route in their Mini Cooper to their friend’s wedding in Scotland, together with Rodney, whom they offered a ride to the wedding as well. On the way, a car accidentally drives into them and it turns out the driver is Dylan, Addie’s ex, and his best friend Marcus. Since their car is totaled, Addie and Deb begrudgingly offer them a ride. Begrudgingly, because there is still a lot of hurt and unspoken issues between all of them.
But despite the awkward situation, the road trip turns out pretty hilarious. Not for the characters, because no, for them it’s still awkward, but for the reader it’s pretty hilarious. A road trip that was supposed to only take a day, comes into obstacle after obstacle and though I wouldn’t want to be there, I still found it all so very entertaining! Not sure what that says about me, but oh well! It was in these chapters that the book felt most like what I was expecting: warm and cozy and funny in an awkward way.
The sisterly bond between Addie and Deb. These two sisters warmed my heart so much throughout the book. They are pretty different and yet their loyalty towards each other was a joy to read about. If it was just them, I’d have been thrilled to join them on their road trip, and I’d even be happily singing along to their country playlists!
What I liked less:
The bleakness of the ‘then’ chapters. In the ‘then’ chapters, we learn about Addie and Dylan from the time they met, to how they started dating, and how it eventually fell apart. So of course I didn’t expect these chapters to be a super happy, feel-good journey. But I still was a bit caught off-guard by how bleak it all felt. I had to drag myself through these chapters and was always looking forward to the ‘now’ chapters instead. Now, I do have to say that these chapters are wonderfully written. Beth O’ Leary really crafted the end of Addie and Dylan well. Their issues are subtly woven throughout the story, even from the beginning and even when things seem fine and even good between them. As a reviewer, I have to admire the writing and the complexity in these characters. But as a reader, on a personal level, this was just a bit too bleak for me. I thought their relationship was so fraught with issues that I couldn’t see how they could ever find their way back to forgive each other in the ‘now’ chapters. And because of that, I couldn’t get as invested in the romance as much as I’d hoped.
The toxic friendship. Again, I have to mention that the character of Marcus was brilliantly written. He’s such a complex character and I went back and forth about him all the time. Which I’m sure is exactly what the writing intended, because that’s just what we do when we’re in a toxic relationship. It’s never black and white and it’s never easy to just cut someone out entirely. And, yeah, maybe we do try and convince ourselves we’re overreacting and it’s not so bad. But while I am in awe about the writing surrounding this character and his friendship with Dylan, overall it made me feel icky. And just like with the romance, I found it hard to root for a friendship that was so soaked in issues. I guess maybe I’m just not really the forgiving type and that’s what stopped me from enjoying this story more.
So overall, I still love Beth O’ Leary and will auto-buy anything she writes. Her writing is brilliant and she has a way to write complex, multi-dimensional characters and stories that balance heavy topics with a lot of humor. And I still recommend The Road Trip. But ultimately, I personally missed the cozy, warm and happy vibe that her previous books had and just couldn’t get into the second-chance romance aspect of this story.