A summer disappointment turns into a cross-country discovery.
Robin can't believe it when her boyfriend, Chris, tells her that his parents have enrolled him in a summer program in Rome. It's their last summer together before he goes away to college, and now they won't even have that time together. It feels like the worst thing that's ever happened to her.
Since Chris is leaving, Robin agrees to join her aunt and cousins on a cross-country road trip, in spite of her reservations -- she and her younger cousins have never really gotten along, and since their father's death they've become even more problematic than before.
Soon the four of them are zigzagging through the West on an eye-opening journey. They explore parts of the country Robin never dreamed existed -- and she discovers inner resources she never imagined she had.
Wittlinger (The Long Night of Leo and Bree; Razzle) introduces a colorful array of characters and settings while tracing 17-year-old Robin's eye-opening road trip throughout the western United States. Although taking a "zigzag" route to L.A. with three less-than-desirable companions her recently widowed aunt and her two bratty younger cousins, Iris and Marshall isn't Robin's idea of a dream vacation, it beats staying at home in Iowa and working at the Tastee-Freez, especially since her college-bound boyfriend, Chris, will be spending the summer in Rome. The first leg of Robin's journey proves bumpier than she had imagined. While she broods over Chris's departure, her cousins' psychological problems (Iris's eating disorder and Marshall's obsession with death) bubble to the surface. Forced to play the role of referee, relief driver and psychologist, Robin is not only distracted from her own woes but develops some inner strength. Evocative images of mountainous terrain, southwestern villages and a traditional dude ranch provide effective backdrops for the protagonist's widening perspective. In the beginning, Robin appears as an insecure teen content to hide in the shadow of her popular boyfriend. By the end of the novel, she has evolved into an independent young woman eager to explore new territory by herself. The heroine's conflicts and romantic notions will strike a familiar chord, and readers might glean some inspiration from her epiphanies. Ages 12-up.