‘She should know how good I am at pretending. It’s all we do. It’s all I do. I pretend that I don’t hurt, that I want Cody, that I don’t want her, that I’m not taking too many pills, that my virginity had been important.
It hadn’t been. It only means something when it’s with the right person. And I couldn’t have her.’
This book is equal parts murder mystery and contemporary romance. Each alternating chapter is a flashback, building up a picture of Sophie’s life so far and her relationship with Mina, while the other chapters are dedicated to the currently occurring events. The switches can be jarring at times, as the flashbacks aren’t told chronologically – instead it jumps from four months ago to three years ago to a year and a half ago rather rapidly, and it can be difficult to readjust to the time period we’re focused on.
That is literally my only quibble with the entire book, though.
Normally, I can see murderers and motives coming from miles away, so it takes a very skilled writer to surprise me. When it was revealed who killed Mina and why – which I am not going to reveal, because it’s so effectively written – I almost dropped my book, I was so surprised. It’s not one of the people who I’d suspected, but once you find out the motive it’s impossible not to spot the breadcrumbs that have been littered throughout: the fact that the clues are spread so subtly is brilliant.
I adored the current chapters because of the building tension, but the retrospective chapters revolving around Mina and Sophie’s relationship ripped out my heart, stomping all over it in the best kind of way. Mina’s family are super religious, so when she starts to fall in love with Sophie she pushes her away and dates as many boys as she can as a cover. Mina’s hot and cold attitude adds to Sophie’s burgeoning drug problem, and soon the girls are winding each other up and fighting at every moment due to their hidden feelings.
As well as that struggle, Mina’s brother Trev has feelings for Sophie and she can’t tell him she’s in love with Mina when even Mina doesn’t know. It’s one of the most convincing love triangles I’ve read, because it’s realistic and not overly dramatic: there’s no arguing in the street, and – for once – there’s no cheating in the entire book. I’m glad that Sophie was bisexual and not just a lesbian:
“You like guys, too.”
“It just depends. On the person.”
because too often in YA the bisexual character is mythical: it’s black and white, gay or straight, and there’s no middle ground. It was nice to see it properly and effectively tackled.
But the highlight of the book for me was definitely Sophie’s drug problem. The only addictions I’ve read in YA are based on harder drugs (e.g. ‘Crank’ by Ellen Hopkins which focuses on cocaine addiction) so having a character dealing with an addiction to prescription pills was refreshing. It all stems from a car accident that Sophie’s in when she’s 14 and not wearing a seatbelt, but even that moral isn’t hammered home in a preachy way. It’s tackled very subtly, with descriptions and mentions of the characters buckling their seatbelts every time that they enter a vehicle: it’s not intrusive, because it’s something that we all do when getting into a car, but it’s nice to see it mentioned instead of being ignored.
After the car accident, Sophie’s leg is filled with metal screws, causing her to walk with a limp (and, at the beginning, a walker and a cane) and she has an awful lot of pain with her back. It’s nice to see a book dealing with disability that comes following and accident and not just a disability that someone was born with – too often characters go through traumatic events such as these and come out on the other side without a scratch on them, so this was much more realistic. To combine the physical effects with the mental effects and the addiction was something I hadn’t seen tackled before: it might be that I haven’t been reading the right books, or it might be that Tess Sharpe is taking brave steps into exploring this currently unappreciated section of YA experiences.
‘Far From You’ is most definitely the best book I’ve read this year. I adore Tess Sharpe’s attention to detail and her ability to deal with multiple issues at once without it becoming overwhelming or out of control. If you haven’t read this book yet, I’d highly recommend it, both as an LGBT YA book and as a beautifully written piece of prose. This is Tess Sharpe’s only book so far, which is frustrating – it was published back in 2014, so I was expecting to have a couple more of her books to enjoy – but I’m waiting with bated breath until her next book releases.