Title: The Road Trip (review copy)
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre/Themes/Content Warnings: Adult Contemporary Drama, sexual assault, alcoholism, anxiety, depression, stalking, homophobic parents
Blurb from Goodreads
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?
This is a review I never thought I’d write. I absolutely adored Beth O’Leary’s first two novels. I was privileged to read them both through NetGalley, I raved about them to pretty much all and sundry, and bought copies of both as gifts for members of my family.
And so I was extremely excited for The Road Trip. I firmly believed it would be one of my favourites of 2021…
But things didn’t work out like I’d planned.
I ended up hating it. Oof that sounds so cruel to say. So harsh. But this book and I never clicked. I struggled reading it for over a week. I wanted to DNF but didn’t because it was Beth O’Leary! And I thought surely I’ll find my way into this novel and that it would ultimately get better….
Sadly for me it never did.
It’s an interesting concept. A then and now look at two people. Then being when they first met and embarked on a romantic relationship. And now being a collision of events that force them into close confines a long time post their breakup.
But the story never worked for me.
Addie and Dylan just never felt like a true love story!
I know…. true love. What even is that? Love isn’t all picture perfect summer sunshine in continents Europe. It’s compromise and common ground, and just having someone else’s back. But the novel tried to tell us these two were madly in love with each other. And I never felt it. Even in the earliest stages of the novel when they first met and made googly eyes at each other I never felt that their love connection was fully shown to the reader. I just didn’t believe it. And therefore when things started to go south I actively wished for a breakup. I wasn’t in any way rooting for them to stay together as a couple. And therefore the novel felt arduous to me. Their relationship was always toxic in my eyes in the past, and remained toxic in the present.
And as for the side characters.
Addie’s sister Deb was just one cliche after another. Her personality was flat. She was nothing more than the quirky, loyal sidekick to Addie. Don’t even start me on that whole peeing on the side of the motorway ridiculousness.
And then there was Dylan’s best friend Marcus. I get that he was supposed to be a toxic character and at the centre of chaos… but it was too done. Too much. Too heavy. His redemption character arc was completely undercooked, and honestly, given the way the climax to his story was rushed I thought he deserved much more of a comeuppance rather than the forgiveness he seemed to inexplicably be in receipt of.
And Rodney? Just no. Nope, nein, non! Another criminally underdeveloped story arc that almost was played for laughs when it should have been weightier in tone, and had an incredibly unsatisfactory conclusion.
Basically this story had a lot of underdeveloped characters… and when I say a lot, I actually mean every single one. Nothing about the way they were written on the page made them come alive for me. They simply acted in a perfunctory manner within the narrative of the book; it felt as if the characters were forced into their roles to fit a rigid plot idea. Nothing about this book felt free flowing and easy.
I’m honestly quite heartbroken with how I feel about this book. I will definitely read Beth O’Leary’s next novel because of how much I loved The Switch and The Flatshare, and fingers crossed O’Leary will be back on form with that one. But sadly The Road Trip just wasn’t for me.
*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*
Publishing 29th April 2021, Quercus