You know what makes writing a review really easy? Getting to embed the book's video trailer:
Wait a sec... That actually has pretty much nothing to do with the book. Damnit!
States of Confusion by Paul Jury is about a young man driving around the country in an effort to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Paul has been bouncing between bullshit video editing jobs since graduating college, but hasn't found the experience of making runs to Starbucks all that fulfilling. In the meantime, his girlfriend is attending a prestigious law school in Chicago (he doesn't say which one, but it's almost certainly University of Chicago), and she seems to have her shit figured out ...for real. She's class of 2005, which means she graduated in the golden age of legal hiring.
Paul on the other hand is in a situation a bit more akin to the law classes of 2008-2011, able only to find jobs that pay less than minimum wage doing work he has no interest in. So, he scrapes together $3000, borrows a car from his parents, and sets out to see all 48 contiguous states in just 48 days. Anyone who has ever driven cross-country knows that if you put the petal to the metal, you can easily see a dozen states in just one day, so 48 days might appear to be overkill.
It's not. Paul's plan isn't just to pass through each state, it's to get into each state and do something interesting there. Not necessarily the most interesting thing, or the thing most representative of the state, but simply to have a series of 48 memorable experiences. And, he's going to do it without traveling on the interstate highway system. And, he's not going to speed. That makes the trip a lot more challenging, and now 48 days is pushing it.
There's a lot of sleeping in cars in not-so-safe spots, a large number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a bunch of encounters with the types of people politicians would refer to as "real Americans."
Unfortunately, the experiences are all pretty shallow. You can't really get to know a person or a place in just an hour or two, so Paul's not left with too much to say. The writing is good enough, and there are plenty of amusing anecdotes, but the story lacks depth. There's an ongoing conflict with his girlfriend, and of course the journey to find himself, but neither of these is particularly engaging.
Spoiler alert, Paul becomes a writer. You probably figured that out ...because of the book thing. But, we never actually get to see that journey. The transition from being lost to finding direction is basically "I really enjoy writing. ...Oh, duh." It might have been more meaningful for him, but on paper it doesn't play out as well. States of Confusion would make for a very good first act to a larger story that goes into detail about slugging it out as an aspiring writer. As a stand alone story though, there's not much here. To be fair, Paul obviously couldn't have written about the journey to getting published before he actually got published, but that doesn't actually redeem the book.