Far From You by Tess Sharpe (@SarahGreenhouse)

I tend to be a fan of linear story telling. I’m all for perspective shifts, but time bouncing is generally not my thing. This is totally my own fault. I’m awful at reading header notes on chapters. That means I tend to get confused because I don’t know where we are in the timeline of events. This is especially true when the shifts in time are close together. But there are some novels that suck me in so much that the non-linear style doesn’t bother me. This was the case with Far From You.

I’m a sucker for a good coming of age novel. It’s one of the reasons I love YA novels so much. And I particularly like those where the protagonist is suffering because of circumstances completely within their control. In Sharpe’s novel, Sophie’s troubles seem to begin with a car accident that happens when she’s fourteen. And technically, I guess this is true. If they’d never been in the car accident, she may never have developed her drug problem. But I don’t think this is entirely true. I think Sophie would have found something to hide behind even without the accident. Her trouble starts when she falls in love with Mina instead of Trev.

She’s in love with Mina. Mina’s in love with her. But so is Mina’s brother Trev. Who’s also one of Sophie’s best friend. Sounds very movie of the week, doesn’t it? Or maybe the plot of a bed teen drama. Except this one contains genuine emotion. Sophie struggles with her drug addiction for years, not half an hour. She hides it from everyone. Her drug of choice is pain medication. Her crime isn’t just hiding her addiction; it’s using her father’s prescription pads. This touches on one of the areas of the book I have a little bit of a problem with. If Sophie had been writing out prescriptions for the amount of drugs she says she was using for a registered narcotic like oxy, wouldn’t the fact that they were always prescribed by her father have triggered something in some database? Isn’t there some kind of master overseer for these drugs? Otherwise, why are they even registered? And wouldn’t her dad have been angrier that she had used him and damaged his reputation? But that’s beside the point.

Then we have the mystery aspect of the novel. Mina has been murdered and Sophie has been set up to take the blame for how it happened – not for the actual murder. Her driving need to find the man who murdered her best friend propels the rest of the story forward. There are links to a long missing girl, a newspaper story, and a local soccer coach. Sharpe even finds a way to mostly avoid the eye-rolling just go to the cops syndrome that happens so often in YA mysteries. This is the action, but it’s not the point. The point of the story isn’t the mystery it’s the love story.

This might be one of the few teen romances with an actual love triangle. Each of these characters loves the other two. It may not be romantic love, but it’s love that is powerful and painful. Sophie openly identifies as bisexual. I’m not sure I’ve ever read this in a YA novel before – or maybe any book. Books are starting to venture further into homosexuality but very few identify as bisexual. It’s a queer identity that gets flack from both sides of the spectrum, but Sophie isn’t confused. She knows that she is attracted to both men and women. And if Trev hadn’t been Mina’s brother, she may have actually dated him after Mina died.

Mina on the other hand just uses boys. She likes Sophie. She likes girls, but she’s so scared of her mother – unfortunately, we never really get to see the mother or Mina’s interaction with her mother, and that feels like a moment that’s lacking. All we have now is Sophie telling us what Mina told her. I know the story is from Sophie’s perspective, but to include one scene wouldn’t have been the worst idea. Being able to understand why Mina was so scared of her mother would have made her a little more sympathetic. Cause honestly, she’s kind of a bitch. When she finds out Sophie had sex with a boy – from someone other than Sophie– before the girls ever admit their feelings for one another, she doesn’t react like a typical hurt friend. Instead, she acts like a jealous girlfriend. She starts ignoring Sophie and flirting like mad with some boy, eventually has sex with said boy, and has Amber – the girl who wants to be Mina’s best friend – pass the information on the Sophie. Later, she starts dating Kyle – after the girls have has sex and while Sophie is away getting clean –and doesn’t even tell Sophie about the relationship. Trev does. Then when Sophie gets back to town, Mina tries to set Sophie up with Trev – knowing exactly how much this would end up hurting all of them. Mina is so at odds with her own sexuality that she treats the people around her with complete disregard for their emotions.

It’s the little moments that make this novel work for me. The characters swear – casually. Not with purpose or excessively. The way people actually speak. The language feels real. Mina’s neuroses feel real. Sophie’s obsession also real. The killers motivations aren’t some crazy complex thing – they’re about protecting your family. Okay, the show down with the killer in the woods – less real, but the character interactions and emotions come off the page so genuinely it’s hard not to feel for them.

It’s not a perfect book. It’s getting a lot of attention because of the characters sexuality – probably more than it would if that content wasn’t unique. And I liked it. It’s probably a book I’ll by, but I’m not saying it’s the best book I’ve read. It’s not even the best book I’ve read this year. But it’s good. I love the style of the writing. The phrasing and language choices. This is the style I like and that probably makes me think more highly of the book than I would based on the story alone. It’s not a book I would recommend for everyone, but it’s one I will recommend to a lot of people.

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