#ReadIndie Book Review: The Road to Amazing by Brent Hartinger

book review (2)


Russel Middlebrook is gettin’ hitched!
The wedding is taking place in a remote lodge on an island in Puget Sound. Russel and his husband-to-be have invited all their close friends to spend the whole weekend together beforehand.

And for the first time in his life, Russel is determined to not be neurotic, and not over-think things.

But that’s before things start going wrong. Who expected a dead killer whale to wash up on the beach below the inn? And what’s this about a windstorm approaching? Then there’s the problem of Russel’s anxious fiancé, who is increasingly convinced the whole thing is going to be a disaster.

Meanwhile, the wedding is taking place near the ruins of a small town, Amazing, where, a hundred years earlier, the people supposedly all disappeared overnight. Why does it feel like the secret at the end of the road to Amazing has something to do with Russel’s own future?

Can Russel’s friends Min, Gunnar, Vernie, and Otto somehow help him make it all make sense?

It’s funny, because contrary to what the religious nutjobs tell you, I think gay guys like weddings more than anyone else. And it isn’t that we’re mocking the institution of marriage, or because we want to destroy it all to hell. It’s because we really, really want to get married.

This book was a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I love that I got to experience Russel’s journey through life beginning with Geography Club, into adulthood with The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, and ending here in The Road to Amazing. But as a novel on its own, The Road to Amazing could have been, well.. a bit more amazing.

My biggest problem with this book is that nothing really happened. There was no real conflict that happened to push the characters to change at all. But maybe that was the point of it. A lot of these characters have been around since 2003 and have grown a lot over the years, but in my eyes that’s no excuse to sit comfortably for upwards of 200 pages the same person. Russel also seemed a lot bitchier and more pretentious than I remembered. This was how all of the tv and movie references struck me, at least.

The Road to Amazing revolves around Russel and Kevin’s wedding weekend and when I say ‘revolves around’, I mean it. It was literally all the characters could talk about. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times the wedding was in danger of being cancelled or how many times Russel said he wasn’t being neurotic for once. It quickly got old. Maybe I just can’t relate because it was a wedding and I have very little interest in weddings or the experience of planning one (I only went to my first wedding last month after all).

Adding to the fact that nothing happened, there was a lot of telling what was going on rather than showing. There was even a point in the book where a few of the characters had monologues about themselves and their backstories. And while I love learning about characters’ struggles I like it to be a process, not an infodump.

But it wasn’t a complete waste. There was a lot of nostalgia in this book. My favourite characters from previous books returned (Vernie from TTIDKIDK and Otto from BITCOBD) and we learned a bit more about what was going on with them since their previous appearances − fortunately not through an infodump situation. There were also some really great moments, usually between Russel and Min, that resulted in some amazing quotes. And of course, Hartinger includes some gratuitous nudity because why the hell not? It couldn’t make the story any more boring.

As the final book in a trilogy this was a solid conclusion. Compared to the other books in Russel’s Futon Years I didn’t get that open ended feeling that Hartinger can pick up on and write another book. Russel’s story is officially over. And while he and his friends will forever and always have a special place in my heart, the bond between Russel and I started to become diluted the minute he moved to Los Angeles in Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams and that is clear as day now. Do I regret reading them? Hell no. Brent Hartinger has a quirky way of writing that I’ve enjoyed for years and I look forward to seeing what new adventures he has up his sleeve for me.

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2 thoughts on “#ReadIndie Book Review: The Road to Amazing by Brent Hartinger

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