I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Published by Disney-Hyperion on March 27th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That's how long recovering addict Sophie's been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.
Forced into rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer - but can she track them down before they come for her?
Far From You is one of those books that kind of seeps in around the edges until you’ve been completely caught up in it without realizing. Though not perfect, it’s a solid book and the lacking bits probably wouldn’t have seemed as lacking if they weren’t juxtaposed by such brilliant bits. It’s haunting and powerful in a way that’s stayed with me since I closed it.
Let’s get the unpleasant out of the way first.
Things I Didn’t Like:
I understand the inclusion of the whole murder mystery aspect, it gave the plot an arc and the story momentum. For most of the book it was an interesting addition, though it definitely took a backseat to the brilliant character parts. However, when the end came and you found out whodunit, it felt so flat. Like, okay, really? That person? For those reasons? It technically wasn’t totally out of the blue, but it definitely felt that way. It was sort of like you’ve been going along enjoying the A and B plots and when they were coming to a close, they handed the reins over to the C and D plots to finish out the book.
The story is told in dual timeline, each present day chapter is interspersed with a chapter from Sophie’s past, usually centered around Mina and adding context to the present day events of the book. So far, so good, right? The part that got a little weird is how non-linear the flashbacks were. I can’t say it was ultimately a bad thing, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book and who knows, maybe if they’d been told in linear time, the characters wouldn’t have felt as rich and the interactions wouldn’t have held as much meaning. However, while I was reading, I kept getting distracted trying to figure out what the significance of seeing this memory at this moment was. Sometimes the memory situations would end on a semi-cliffhanger and then it would be several chapters before we got back to what happened next, which was occasionally frustrating.
Things I liked:
The writing is lovely. It’s somehow both matter-of-fact and still secretive. It has this way of luring you in and lulling you before knocking the wind out of you, throwing out heart-wrenchingly evocative lines like this:
I wish [Mina’s death] had been like that. Almost as much as I wish it had been over instantly, so she wouldn’t have been so scared. I wish that any part of it could have been peaceful or quiet or brave. Anything but the painful, frantic mess we became in the dirt, all breath and blood and fear.
The strength of Far From You lies in it’s characters and their relationships to each other. Sophie, Mina and Trev are caught up in one of the most interesting and tragic love triangles I have ever read and it’s made all the more complicated when you consider two of them are related and one of them is dead.
You may have noticed that I used the dreaded ‘love triangle’ and you may be confused by it’s placement under the ‘Things I Liked’ header. That’s right, I loved this love triangle. I think the problem with most love triangles is that they’re often used as a sort of highly romanticized cheat code to bypass actually having a plot, not so much here. Basically, Trev loves Sophie and Sophie loves Trev but she loves his sister Mina more than anything and then Mina loves/loved (that dual timeline comes into play here) both of them but is scared of what that means and also can see how Sophie and Trev would make a lovely, easy couple (did you follow that?). It’s messy and painful, balanced on a knife’s edge where a step in the wrong direction will result in broken hearts and obliterated relationships both before and after murder comes into the equation.
I particularly loved the larger-than-life Mina. It’s impressive when the character that initially jumps out at you the most is the dead one. As with many loved and lost characters, Sophie initially presents/remembers Mina in her brightest light. Mina was fun, sassy and brave. Mina went after what she wanted, looked out for those she loved and generally made life so magical and amazing that losing her, especially in such a brutal fashion, has had an effect on her friends and family similar to that of dropping a grenade (i.e. carnage and devastation in every direction). However, over the course of the book you come to realize that Mina was just as flawed and scared as the rest of us, she just hid it behind a dazzling display of herself. Getting to know the characters and learning their secrets was hands down my favorite part of the book.
I also appreciate how Far From You portrays addiction. On the surface when you have an addictive substance and an addict it’s easy to assume that one feeds the other and it’s a neatly closed cycle, not worth thinking too deeply about. You kick the addiction and presto! You’re an addict in recovery, as long as you stay clean it’s all good right? No. Wrong. The thing about addiction is it’s a mindset, a wiring of your brain that leaves you unable to control yourself and act rationally in the face of your addiction and this book gets that. Yes, Sophie is addicted to Oxy (or oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller often compared to heroin in terms of addictiveness), but before Sophie was addicted to the pills, she was addicted to Mina and without both she’s addicted to resolving Mina’s murder. Kicking the drug isn’t the same as kicking the mental pattern and Sophie is just starting to realize she’s eventually going to have to face that. It’s all built up to in such a wonderfully subtle way that until the last few chapters, I really thought I was reading too much into Sophie. It’s smoothly shown, not told, in a way that left me infinitely more satisfied than I would’ve been if it’d all been presented up front.
I loved Far From You. It’s strengths more than make up for its weaknesses. It’s a beautiful, angsty, insightful look into several very real issues. It’s a shame that the mystery fell so flat for me, but I can tell you that, after reading it several days ago, the bad stuff has fallen away while the good stuff lingers on.