book review: far from you, tess sharpe

16151118 book review: far from you, tess sharpeTitle: Far From You
Author: Tess Sharpe
Category: Young Adult, Fiction
Publisher: Will publish April 8, 2014; Disney Hyperion
Starred Review: 4 stars

Another emotionally charged debut novel with this one. And a lot, a lot going on here. Murder, addiction, relationships, parents …

Sophie has nearly died twice, and in the first page we see both. The first, at 14, is in a car accident. The second, at 17, is staring down the barrel of a gun then watching in horror as her best friend, Mina, is murdered beside her. Between those two moments, Sophie battles a drug addiction that started with the use of painkillers after the car accident.

The disjointed timeline of the novel took some getting used to. Chapters labeled now were interspersed with then chapters. While the now happened in continuation, in sequential order, the then were all over the place. Two and a half years ago, then six months ago, then one year ago, then one and a half years ago. I found it a little difficult at the beginning to make chronological sense of the book’s timeline. By the end of the book, of course, everything had fallen into place and made sense, but while reading there were a few times I had to go back to the start of the chapter to figure out where I was in Sophie’s life. Events were referenced time and again that were clearly important, yet I hadn’t yet read them fleshed out. I’m not saying I disliked the way the book was set up — in fact, it was rather unique and said a lot about Sophie and the way she viewed herself and the events that shaped her — but I just had to get used to it.

The now story chronologically follows Sophie several months after the murder of her friend Mina. Immediately following, Sophie went to rehab for a relapse she didn’t have. The murder is unsolved. When Sophie gets out, she has a one-track mind — figure out who killed Mina and why. She’s surrounded by an interesting cast of characters, including Mina’s brother Trev, who was the one driving the first time Sophie almost dies, Sophie’s parents, who don’t seem to trust her at all, the quirky Rachel who we learn is a recent addition to Sophie’s relationship circle, and Mina’s ex-boyfriend, who was the one responsible for getting Sophie sent back to rehab in the first place. Bit by bit, however, we see there’s more and more we don’t know and more and more revealed.

I like Sophie a lot. She’s strong, tenacious, and knows what she wants. She also has an addictive personality, which is something that manifests itself in both her physical addiction to drugs and in some of her relationships. Every scene exposes more of Sophie and more of each moment that shaped her. I liked the way Tess Sharpe revealed Sophie to me, moment by moment. As for Sophie’s friendship and relationship with Mina, it is such an important part of the story and in shaping Sophie that every bit I got wasn’t enough. Since Mina is dead at the start of the book, each time she’s mentioned either in the now or in the then scenes, I was reaching for more. I felt like that relationship was one that had the capacity to crash, burn, and explode — and it did, just maybe not in the way anyone expected.

If I have any thoughts about what I didn’t like, there are two, both having to do with characters that I wanted to see more of. One is the newspaper reporter who Mina interned under. I assumed her would have a larger role than he did, and I think there was a missed opportunity there. Additionally, there was Sophie’s aunt, a hard cop who practiced a lot of tough love to get Sophie clean in the first place. We get precious few scenes and interaction with her, and I wanted so much more.

I really loved the book. It was emotional, yes, but surprising in unexpected ways. As with any story with a mystery attached, I had my own guesses and assumptions, some of which were correct and some weren’t. Overall, I was satisfied with the conclusion, drawn in throughout, and gasping aloud every now and again. I’m on a roll with emotionally-charged YA books, and this was no exception. Very, very good.

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