It sometimes makes me sad when contemporary books that I really, truly like and enjoy do not quite catch on like I hope that they would. Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John is a book that I basically blew through, but one that ultimately had some meaning to me, as I’ve met people like Luke and people like the side characters and it just really made me think about faith and being a teenager. Guys, I think that I am kind of a sucker for YA books about religion so long as they are not religious YA books. Try and puzzle that one out. Antony John’s Thou Shalt Not Road Trip blends road trips and faith into one must-keep-reading-must-not-stop sort of books.
Sixteen year old Luke has just written a religious book called Hallelujah which basically is written in Biblical style, but with lessons for kids. Hallelujah becomes a national best seller and so, Luke is sent on a cross country book tour. He starts in LA, where his brother Matt will take over chauffeuring Luke across the country, or at least until St. Louis. Only, there is one hitch — Matt’s girlfriend Alex and her sister, Luke’s ex, Fran are hitching a ride. This makes Luke super uncomfortable, especially because Mat is charging ostentatious things like a Hummer and off the beaten path hotel rooms to Luke’s publicist’s card. Along the way though, Luke learns some pretty important things about himself and his faith. We also see a lot of what went into Hallelujah and why Luke wrote what he did – like we see his headspace at the time. Anyways, trust that I am terrible at recounting the plot of Thou Shalt Road Trip by Antony John and that it is way better than how I make it sound.
So, we start the book and you guys LUKE IS SO NAIVE. Like, as an adult, I sit there reading and I am like, Luke you are being terrible. Or Luke, you are being a prat (sometimes in my head I use terms I would never use in real life). Or I am like, Luke that girl is fake. You will see when you read. Anyways, Luke just does not have a lot of life experience, he’s super sheltered and he is also kind of judgmental. Like, Fran for example used to be all clean cut and preppy, but then she cut her hair and dyed it, got some piercings and tattoos and so Luke decides to just write her off. Like, come on. That is such a dick move. And I bet you are reading all this and thinking to yourself that I hated Luke as a character. You would be wrong. I think that he encapsulates being a sheltered teenager quite well. He’s a spectacular idiot, but ultimately he redeems himself and honestly I couldn’t help but feel for him. I ended up being won over by Luke.
Usually I come to books to just swoon my face off, swooning might as well be my second job. With Thou Shalt Not Road Trip, there is a romance, yes. There’s Luke’s pining for what Fran used to be and how when he was dorky he really, really liked Fran. Especially because they were on debate team together and had this like crazy intense banter chemistry. Then it all goes to hell. And you read how it all went to hell and hope that it can be put back together again. You see Luke royally screw up. And well, you guys, I can’t help but nod and smile and think to myself that the romance played out in the best way possible for the storyline it is in. You will see if/when you read this book.
I think that Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John is an interesting look at authentic faith, blind faith, and sanctimoniousness , especially among teenagers. Like, Luke gets really sanctimonious and kind of annoying. But then, he starts to examine his beliefs and I don’t know, it’s just so well written and I think that many kids go through that — that whole what do I truly believe. I like that he does that. I also like that the book showcases blind faith when you see people reading Luke’s book Hallelujah and taking it literally as opposed to figuratively, like it was actually supposed to be taken. You also see a lot of people judging Fran because of her punk makeover looks. Y’all, I totally know people like that and those people are basically the worst and I am getting all run-on here but Antony John does a superb job showing how they are the worst.
Straight up, I’d recommend Thou Shalt Not Road Trip to those in need of a terrific contemporary book with strong character development, a respectful but exploratory look at teenage spirituality and a rather quirky yet disastrous road trip.
Disclosure: Shanyn gifted me a copy of this book.
Other reviews of Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John:
Chick Loves Lit – “I had a lot of fun reading”
Forever Young Adult – “I felt like it really was taking me on a grand adventure”
Annette’s Book Spot – “very easy, quick read”