Title: As Far As You’ll Take Me
Author: Phil Stamper
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Publication date: February 9th, 2021
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?
tw: eating disorders, homophobia
Phil Stamper’s sophomore novel, As Far As You Take Me, follows a gay teen from the heart of Kentucky on an overseas adventure to England to find his home, and his people. Marty’s story is a coming of age, and coming of self, story that I imagine can be related to by many who find themselves being the “outsider” in a religious, conservative area of the US.
It took me some time to be able to write this review as I have two major feelings about this book, and frankly they contradict each other. On one hand, I appreciate Marty’s journey and the character development from page one to the very end. Marty has anxiety, he has a hard time making friends and having confidence, and he is really coming from a place of not understanding himself. By the end of the book he learns more about his anxiety, makes a friend group where he truly feels he belongs, and has an understanding of who he is and his place in this world.
On the other hand, as someone who struggles with an eating disorder, reading about Marty’s struggles with body image and eating, in the context of a romantic relationship, was incredibly difficult. My concern is not the topic, I never wish for these topics not to be discussed as they are real and valid for everyone. My main concern is how it was addressed, and then not addressed. By the end, the eating problems that Marty had throughout the book were just ignored after an initial “intervention” with friends. There was no wrap up to the disordered eating, no lesson Marty learned which normally would occur. I struggled with this part of the story line, as by the end it was unclear how it actually moved the plot along, if there was no lesson involved.
Outside of this concern, which I’m hoping is cleaned up in edits or goes through a sensitivity reader, I did truly enjoy this book and still love Phil’s writing. I knew I needed to read his next after loving The Gravity of Us.
Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
Happy reading, folks!