Driftwood: A California Road Trip Novel – Elizabeth Dutton


How far would you go for your family? A smart and funny debut about road trips, music, love, and California for fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Run River and Killing Yourself to Live.

Los Angeles, California: Clem Jasper is a trust fund kid with a world famous rock musician for a father. When he dies suddenly (playing ping pong) she discovers he’s left her a strange legacy—a series of letters that take her on a mysterious road trip around California. Ignoring her aunt’s suggestion that she pitch the trip as a reality show, she embarks on her own—to discover just what it was that her father meant her to find. What secret could be so powerful that he had to die before telling her?

With a voice reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell, Dutton’s Driftwood is a surprising, poignant, and funny debut. Dutton perfectly captures the mythology of California with this bright and unusual take on the freedom of the open road, the power of music, and what it means, even in the midst of grief, to be a family. Fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Run River and Killing Yourself to Live will find much to savor here.


For me, Driftwood dragged on and on. It was really easy to tap in and out of, because I didn’t care enough about the characters.

One of my issues with Clem was how young her behaviour seemed. If she was 17 instead of 27, I might have sympathized with her feelings of being lost and unsure in the world. But come on, she’s 27. Everything she has was given to her. She really has the “poor little rich girl” slant down pat, which isn’t quite as much fun for the rest of us. Casey summed this up pretty well during one of Clem’s bouts of complaints, but I hoped for more to come out of it. Instead, she found mindless work at a quirky bookstore and still got all the luxuries of being wealthy. Isn’t that just the American dream?

Have you ever heard of that experiment where people are blindfolded and told they’ll be given a chocolate, only to get fed a potato chip instead? Often times, people would spit it out even if they liked chips more, simply because it wasn’t what they expected. That’s kind of what this book was to me. Based on the cover and blurb, I thought this would be a fun, lighthearted summer road trip book (à la Amy and Roger).Instead, it was really pensive and weighty. Don’t get me wrong, the writing itself was nearly immaculate and flowed like a dream. But I wish I had a different mindset going in.

Overall, this book isn’t bad. I didn’t love it, but it never had me gagging or frustrated. It was pretty self-aware. If only the protagonist was a little more likeable.

Related Reading

  • Based on the blurb, you can tell they’re really trying to liken this to Perks. It’s nothing like Perks. That being said, it did remind me of a ton of different books throughout!
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • When You Were Here – Daisy Whitney
  • Rules of Summer – Joanna Philbin
  • We Were Liars – E. Lockart
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson
  • Paper Towns – John Green
  • You Are Here – Jennifer E. Smith

Rating: 3/5


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