Feelings for the opposite sex are perhaps the most difficult obstacles to navigate since teens are just coming into their own as individuals and have so much other pressures (schoolwork, family etc.) In this novel, Archie's parents have just divorced and he suddenly finds himself attracted to Mari, a girl with whom he plays a board game with every Monday (and has done so since middle school). Mari for her part has her own issues bubbling up as do the rest of the group, gentle giant Dante and the odd couple Sam and Sarah.
It is the latter two persons who propel the narrative forward and the book turns into a road trip of epic proportions. Some of the supporting characters are unforgettable to say the least. As the old saw goes, travel broadens one's horizons and I would add that travel with friends does this even more and can either make or break a friendship.
Ribay doesn't sermonize or come off as preachy but he makes his point. Life is hard but turning away from those who genuinely love us and care for us makes no sense and may very well ends up hurting us. Adolescence is fraught with many dangers and kids, for some reason try to move away from the very people who most want to help them (their parents) and move closer to the people they think can empathize and help them. While I don't think that many parents would be as permissive as the ones in this novel I do think that as parents we learn when to step away and let kids learn lessons for themselves. This is a good read for older tweens and teens due to some of the topics covered and the language used.