Book Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.
That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.
Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?
You know how you sometimes start a book thinking you know exactly what to expect based on the blurbs and synopses… and then it turns out to be something else entirely? Far From You is one of those — and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Based on the promos I’d read, I was expecting a more or less straightforward teen murder mystery. Nope.
Because, yeah, there’s a murder. And yes, it’s a mystery. But no, that’s not really the point of this book at all.
Far From You starts with a bang — or really, with two bangs. Within the first couple of pages, we learn that Sophie Winters and her best friend were confronted by a masked gunman when they were 17, and while Sophie survived, Mina died at the crime scene, bloody and suffering. We also find out that three years earlier, the two girls were in a car crash while being driven by Mina’s big brother Trevor. Mina and Trev walked away with minor injuries, but Sophie was wrecked — twisted, broken, resuscitated after her heart stopped during surgery, and left with a body full of scars and never-ending pain.
From that powerful beginning, we follow Sophie’s narration as she recounts multiple timelines: her present-day struggles, her memories of the time after the car accident, and her memories of the events surrounding Mina’s murder. At the same time, we learn Sophie’s terrible truth: After the car crash, she became crushingly dependent on pain pills, and was finally forced into rehab at her cool aunt’s house after hitting rock bottom and lying to her family and friends for years. She returned home just weeks before the murder, clean and ready to move forward. But at the crime scene where Mina had been murdered and Sophie had been knocked over the head, the police found a bottle of pills in Sophie’s jacket, and absolutely no one would believe that she hadn’t relapsed.
Instead of mourning for her friend and helping the police investigate the murder, Sophie is shipped off to a rehabilitation center for three months — and the police label the crime a drug deal gone bad, and basically shut down the investigation.
The plot of Far From You really kicks in when Sophie is released from rehab, angry and devastated. Despite being clean for nine months, she’s considered an actively using addict by her parents and friends, and is seen as being to blame for Mina’s murder. Sophie acknowledges that she’s an addict and clings fiercely to her hard-won sobriety, despite the pain that continues to wrack her body — but she’s furious that no one will listen to her, and what’s worse, nothing is being done to catch Mina’s killer.
Sophie has to take matters into her own hands, with help from a small number of trusted friends including Trev, to find out what really happened the night Mina died and find some small measure of peace. But can she do this without endangering herself and everyone left in her life? Are some stones better left unturned?
Okay, that’s the action part of the plot. But where Far From You really excels and moves into unexpected territory is in its exploration of the friendship between Sophie and Mina, what secrets were kept and which questions were never answered, and how a person can survive when the center of her universe is ripped away from her.
Sophie and Mina had been best friends since they met in grade school, and over the years they developed a trust and love that had ups and downs, but never broke or fell apart. There’s much more to their relationship than either girl ever acknowledged, and Sophie only slowly opens up enough to start sharing the true depths of her loss with the people who still matter to her.
Beyond the murder mystery, Far From You is a deeply personal character study, and we come to know Sophie’s deepest fears and most painful emotions. She’s wrecked, truly, both from everything her body has endured and even more so from the trauma of Mina’s loss. She’s hurt by the mistrust of everyone around her, and frustrated at not being heard. She’s angry — oh so angry — that Mina has been taken from her, angry that nothing has been done about it, angry that she couldn’t stop it. And she suffers greatly as she comes to terms with who she is — an addict who doesn’t quite have her life together, who is holding onto being clean with everything she has, and still worries that it won’t be enough.
I feel that it would be a disservice to potential readers to go into more detail about the complicated, intertwined relationships and friendships in Far From You, as these are best discovered through reading the book. I’ll simply say that the emotional connections, the devotion and love between unexpected characters, can be heartbreaking as well as lovely to read.
As for the murder itself, I can’t say that I was surprised when the mystery was resolved. I’d guessed the killer’s identity and a had a vague idea of the motive, but hadn’t managed to put every detail in place — and that’s fine. I was engrossed in the investigation and compiling of clues, breathless as the tension and danger mounted, and intrigued by the unraveling of the murder and the events leading up to it.
Far From You is an intense and unusual young adult novel. If you need a happily ever after and a romance tied up in a pretty ribbon, this may not be the book for you. What I appreciated about the conclusion of Far From You is its refusal to graft a happy ending onto a tragic story. Sophie can and will move forward, but the bottom line is that Mina is gone, forever. It would be fake to leave Sophie with a sunny new beginning. She’s a wonderful character, flawed but powerful, but as we leave her, she still has a long way to go. There’s hope for her future, but she’ll have to work at it every day. And that, to me, is exactly the right kind of ending for this story.
Title: Far From You
Author: Tess Sharpe
Publication date: April 8, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Young adult
Source: Review copy courtesy of Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley