Review for “Far From You” by Tess Sharpe (2014)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I didn’t like this as much as I probably should have. On the surface, it is quite perfect: a contemporary YA novel in which the main character is a bisexual teenage girl fighting an addiction to prescription pain meds, the suspicion of her parents, and solving the murder of her best friend. I should have been impressed. But I was only half-thrilled.
This is the story of Sophie, a teenaged girl living with her parents who is sent involuntarily to rehab after the murder of her best friend, Mina. She is clean at the time of the event, but because she is a recovering addict and cops found pills in her jacket at the scene of the murder, her parents and the rest of the community assume that the two girls got themselves in trouble, caught in a drug deal gone bad. Once she gets out of rehab, Sophie goes about solving the murder of her best friend and clearing her and her best friend’s name.
The book switches a lot between Sophie’s past, where we learn she was seriously injured in a car crash (her injuries are the reason for her subsequent painkiller abuse) and her present, where she tries to live with the trauma of losing her best friend. While I understand the author’s intention, every time the ‘time’ switched I almost felt like I was reading another, separate book. The novel moved from past, to present, to further past, to furthest past, back to present, back to further past, etc. Although there was a label whenever this happened (i.e., “two years back,” “now/June”), it was not a very cohesive narrative here at all. I am not arguing that this book need be presented chronologically, but the back and forth here was more of an annoyance than anything else. Add in the current murder mystery plot and it seemed as if there was way too much here being juggled at once.
Despite my problem with the logistics of the story, I did actually like the main character here. Sophie is strong, outspoken, and a survivor. This is also the first YA novel I have read with a bisexual female main character. I thought that Miss Sharpe did an excellent job with this–the character’s sexuality never overshadowed the narrative, and the narrative never overshadowed character’s sexuality–somehow these two components synced up and worked together perfectly. After reading the novel, I could totally understand how Sophie loved Mina and also had relationships with boys. In today’s society where a lot of teens are discovering their sexual identities, I thought the author’s choice to present a character in this way was a bold move, and a good one.
I must say, though, that the ending was kind of anti-climactic. You get to the end and you’re just like: really? As several other reviewers have pointed out, the larger point here did not even seem to be the answer to the whodunit, but the way Sophie handles life after trauma. All of which is cool, but why call this a mystery if the mystery wasn’t the point to begin with? Hmmm.
Solid 3 stars here. Read with caution.