Books · coming out · Contemporary · diverse characters · lgbtqia content · mental health · new adult · own voices author · read the trigger warnings · self-discovery · young adult

REVIEW: As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

The Official Description: The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

Just the facts: Queer YA, self-discovery, troubling coming-out, first love

An emotional, heart-felt, roller coaster ride about love… with family, friends, first boyfriends and most importantly: oneself.

 – Kinzie Things

 

My thoughts bit: Phil Stamper’s As Far As You’ll Take Me is a great new addition to the YA world. While I will say, it was melancholic reading about travel during a pandemic lockdown, it was also a bit freeing. Stamper’s book may be just the get-away you’re looking for during these unsettling times. And what a fantastic cover this book has! I’m loving the trend in YA books to engage artists for fantastic art !!

Marty is still dealing with the fallout of his parents learning that he is gay when this book begins. He’s come up with the perfect plan. He’s going to England, but he’s not telling his family that he won’t be coming back home. He’s definitely on the run and sees his music career as an oboe-playuer gaining much more traction in Europe. While in England, he’ll be staying with his cousin Shane – another musician. Shame’s coming out experience was almost the opposite of Marty’s thanks to his Mom and Marty’s Aunt. it’s been the cause of a bit of discord in the family…but Marty can’t wait to stay with them.

Over the course of a few weeks, Marty goes through so many things that we all face throughout our lives. He meets a startling young man who seems to want to spend time with him,. He gains and loses friendships. He has to be honest with himself, his friends and his family in many different ways.

All the characters in this novel are well-developed and interesting in their own right. Marty deals with a variety of issues that may be familiar to most people. His anxiety is a constant companion and it appears that he hasn’t received any sort of counselling or other intervention. He’s struggling to deal with it on his own once he leaves behind his over-bearing best friend. In addition to anxiety, Marty struggles with issues regarding his weight, appearance and eating.

The supporting characters in this story are all given their own detailed lives. Many issues/challenges are touched upon throughout this book: competition, losing friendships, struggling to fulfill commitments, anxiety, queer lives, family discord. Stamper manages to wrangle all these issues into a cohesive storyline… without drawing the focus too far from the main plot.

Essentially, Marty is discovering who he is. His journey to London is about music for him… and becoming the person he’s supposed to be. The problem appears to be that Marty hasn’t really been standing on his own two feet. While he was at home, he was pushed by his best friend to face his fears, directed by parents to be a certain kind of person and when he gets to London he becomes enamoured with Pierce and the idea of having a boyfriend.

I loved the detail about London! It was like taking a little vacation again. I’ve been to London many times (I was born not far from there) and Stamper’s attention to detail was perfect. There’s enough description of London to make it familiar to those who may not have visited and not too much to make it bothersome. Marty learning the language differences and culturally unique bits about London was amusing and entertaining.

This is a very real look at someone’s life and I loved it. Marty is authentic and familiar and I know that many readers will be able to identify with his challenges and battles. Go Marty! You can do it! If you’re a fan of YA books, Queer books or just love an engaging story then pick this one up!

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) panic, anxiety, character passes out, homophobia, parents are unaccepting of coming out (changes throughout story), toxic relationship, eating disorder, character is outed by friend, character attempts to coerce another character into sexual encounter (defended against), restricted eating.

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper from Bloomsbury via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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