Author: Tess Sharpe
Genre: young adult, contemporary, mystery
Published: April 8 2014
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.
The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.
The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.
After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.
This book is like breaking your heart open slowly, over three hundred pages. This book is beautiful and sad and sadly beautiful. It's got depth and emotion and will evoke genuine feeling from readers who can identify with Sophie, or with Mina, or with Trevor or just with the tangle of love and emotions the three of them find themselves in. This is a book that worms its way into your heart and brain. You will love these characters and you will think about them long after the last page is read and done.
I'm very rarely a fan of the love triangle because it so rarely serves any real purpose in fiction. Not so with Tess Sharpe's writing or characters. Here, the love triangle is a key representation of Sophie's affections between the other two main characters. She clearly loves one over the other, but she is torn between the two for many reasons. The reader can debate whether that's due to societal pressure, Sophie's bisexuality, fear of commitment, whatever -- but the love triangle is more than just a device for drama. It's refreshing use of an overdone trope and, what's more, it felt like a natural plotline for the story.
The characters -- oh how I loved them. Sharply drawn, with flaws and foibles and mistakes and love and care, they defy expectation and explanation. They were a loud bunch, with so much life and feeling. Even when Sophie is at her lowest, Sharpe draws her with such clarity, writes her with so much voice and life it's easy to envision this girl who will survive anything and everything. It's hard to describe, but these characters have personality, even if they only appear in flashback or memory.
This is a mystery and a contemporary drama but those looking for more of the former will be disappointed. Finding answers does drive both Sophie and the plot of Far From You, but it's not a main focus for the entire narrative. I liked the balance between Sophie's quest and the more dramatic storylines but they meshed together well and formed a cohesive picture. The finale can feel a bit too easy, but I was willing to forgive that since the mystery wasn't the main attraction for me here.
The language in Far From You is often outstanding, so much so that I forgot how vivid Sharpe's imagery can be. For a debut novel, this feels like a polished and perfected story. For the few issues I had, there were a hundred things I loved about this LBTQ story. I loved the care and attention paid to all aspects; I loved the honesty with which the author explored all facets of her characters; I loved the beautiful prose Sharpe capably displayed. Even when I could have done without elements of the story being presented, I couldn't help but admire the author's talent while doing so.
It goes without saying that I will keep the characters from Far From You in my heart for a while. I will also be on the lookout for Tess Sharpe's next story, given what she did with her first novel. Her unique blend of heart and horror and humor is unforgettable and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.