Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Far From You

Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: When Sophie's best friend, Mina, is murdered, Sophie is blamed.

No one thinks Sophie killed Mina, but they think it's Sophie's fault that Mina is dead. The police, her friends, her family, Mina's family, all believe that Sophie took Mina to a drug deal; something went wrong; and Mina ended up shot.

It's true that Sophie has a history with drugs, and with lying, so no one believes the truth: that it was Mina who wanted to be in the woods that night, that Sophie was going with Mina, that a masked man shot Mina.

Sophie was forced into rehab, even though she was already clean. Now she's back home, and she's determined to find who killed Mina, and why.

The Good: I love a good mystery! And I love an author who understands that a character's backstory isn't just words on a page; rather, it's there to be motivation, to be explanation, to be a present part of the story.

Sophie is a drug addict. She won't deny it. When she as 14, she was in a terrible car accident. She was left with scars, a bad leg, and a problem with prescription drugs. She was clean for a few months when Mina died, but no one believes Sophie because junkies are liars. That, and the pills in her pocket that the killer planted on her.

I love Sophie's frustration at not being believed. I felt as betrayed and hurt as she did; yet, at the same time, I could understand why those around her believed the worst, and why her parents sent her to rehab. Quite simply, they want to save her life. What else would they do, with a child who has a history of addiction?

And I love that Sophie's injuries and addiction plays into Mina's murder and into it not being solved. No, it wasn't a drug deal gone wrong. Instead, Sophie's history made it easy for the murderer to frame her. He wasn't planting drugs on just any girl. Sophie's drug addiction sends the police in the wrong direction. And there is some guilt that is rooted in Sophie's injuries: her bad leg meant that neither girl had a chance to run away once they saw the gun.

Sophie's addiction is shown through flashbacks and her own present, daily, struggle to stay sober in the face of physical pain (her leg and back will always be a problem) and emotional pain, the loss of Mina, her best friend and the love of her life.

Part of Far From You requires the reader to believe, and accept, about how teens lie to the parents. Sophie, of course, lied left and right because of her addiction. Lies are told about Sophie, so that the police believe she was still using and dragged her best friend to a drug deal. Mina's lies of omissions -- not telling Sophie why they were going to the woods at night -- means that Sophie doesn't know why they were there. When it turns out Mina was working on a story for the local paper, even that is tied up in secrecy, with Mina hiding her work so that no one realizes she was working on something. Other lies are revealed, ones told to protect people that end up hurting others.

One of those lies is about Sophie and Mina. Sophie and Mina were best friends. And they loved each other, and hid it from themselves and each other, flirting and dancing around their attraction, dating boys to prove something to themselves, their families, each other. Sophie would have told her parents she was bisexual; but to do that, to come out, would have meant saying "and I love Mina." Mina's religious family would not have accepted that, and so Sophie stayed quiet because of Mina. Now, that means she cannot publicly mourn -- or, rather, not mourn as a lover.

I don't want to call their relationship a spoiler; that makes being gay or bisexual a "gotcha," a "twist." It isn't; it's a deeper layer to understanding Sophie and Mina, to realizing the depth of Sophie's loss. Sophie doesn't share this with the reader right away, but it's because she is working things out. She hasn't shared everything, yet, with the reader. The story starts in the "now," after Sophie has left rehab, and flashes back, in a very non-linear way, to Mina's murder, to Sophie's accident, to Sophie and Mina's relationship.

Mina's keeping things back about the story she's working on makes more sense, once the reader realizes that Mina has been lying her whole life.

I love how all of this comes together, in a mystery both about why Mina was murdered, but also a look at one teenage girl struggling with tremendous loss. And there is so much more I could write about! Like how Sophie feels alone, but it turns out she has allies, some unexpected. Or the setting, which made me feel like I was in a small town where everyone knows everyone -- or thinks they do.

Let's add this to the list of Favorite Books Read in 2014!

Other reviews: YA and Kids Book Central; As Told By Rachel; Lisa Loves Literature; Cuddlebuggery

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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