Ateenage girl tries to repair her shattered relationship with her younger sister during a road trip to amusement parks across the United States in Jahn’s YA novel.
Pennsylvania sisters Elise, who narrates, and Wylla go on a marathon scavenger-hunt contest that takes them through major American amusement parks over the course of two weeks. Along the way, they gather hidden tokens based on clues provided by the sponsor. But it’s not all fun and games; the past autumn, a long-standing relationship between 17-year-old Elise, younger sister Wylla, and their childhood pal Logan came to a dramatic end due to Elise’s fateful decisive action—scandalous details of which are revealed piecemeal. Furthermore, a violent car crash the previous March left Elise with lingering anxiety. Nonetheless, as they travel with a curious crew of other contestants, the sisters tentatively try to mend their relationship—or at least Elise attempts to do so amid agonized self-searching and PTSD symptoms: “It’s hard to believe in yourself when no one else does either. Not Mom. Not Wylla....Which is probably why I always assumed that the reason I never had a boyfriend was because unlike Wylla, I was simply unlovable.” The Logan incident and the sisters’ sibling rivalry and dysfunctional upbringing are hashed out, but Elise feels Wylla is holding back something vitally important. Although the plot involves a lot of theme-park attractions, this is a probing and self-reflective psychological tale, and not a narrative roller coaster. Still, there are plenty of real coasters among the speed tours of Dollywood, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Busch Gardens, and so on. To Jahn’s credit, none of this feels like travelogue, though a sidebar on Tennessee’s engaging, interactive Titanic museum certainly sells the place. Near the end, the author presents a whip-snap plot twist, cannily forcing the reader to rethink and reinterpret all that has gone before. As a result, quite a few readers won’t mind getting on the ride a second time.
A superior, sisterly road drama with a last-act surprise.