FAR FROM YOU is GayYA’s May Book of the Month. We’re giving away a signed copy to two lucky winners in our giveaway, which you can enter here, and discussing the book as we read through it together here. Later in the month, you can look forward to an interview from Tess Sharpe and a TwitChat inspired by the book. 

Review: FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe

You guys are all bookish people, so I’m sure you know (and savour) the feeling of being so wrapped up in a book that opening it feels like your very own all-expenses-paid holiday.

That’s FAR FROM YOU all over; that delightful knowledge, for the two or three days you’re reading it, that there are beautiful characters and genuine relationships and people in love with each other. That comfort that, no matter what problems are happening in your own life, you can open it up at any time and be immersed once again in the lives of those characters.

And I really don’t say any of that lightly.

At face value, FAR FROM YOU is an account of the aftermath of Mina’s murder, and how her best friend, Sophie (our protagonist) deals with that. But it isn’t depressing, and I think that’s one of the hardest things to pull of when writing what is undoubtably a sad story. It’s even funny in places. I laughed out loud when reading some of the passages, and the humour and reliability of the book definitely added something to the story.

One of the first things you notice about this book is that it is told from multiple storylines: all in spectacular present tense that is so subtle I didn’t realise it was there, but nevertheless all different. The main narrative is told “now”, in June, just after Sophie has been released from rehab for getting over an addiction that she had already dealt with in the first place. Every page of the June timeline is saturated with emotion: grief, desperation, anger, curiosity, fear, hatred, and love. And I think Tess Shape did an amazing job of helping to demonstrate that coping with death – especially brutal, unnecessary death – does not bring with it one emotion, but a multitude, and not all of them are negative.

But I’m going to admit here and now that my favourite bits of the book were the flashback chapters; the little scattered memories of Sophie and Mina’s relationship, something of a “before the war” memoir of the way things used to be. Some passages were just so gorgeous and so lyrical that it was sort of impossible not to start crying, or to feel actual physical pain, and for a writer to be able to affect readers that deeply is an incredible feat.

And as though I haven’t said enough awesome things about this book, I’m now going to talk about the fact that Sophie is bisexual. The best thing is, it’s not just shoved in there somewhere at the end – “oh, actually, yeah, I’m bisexual, even though I’ve showed no signs of it whatsoever for this entire book” – but it’s stressed throughout in such a subtle way that you probably won’t pick up on it consciously unless you’re trying. You’ll just sort of notice it, at the very back of your mind, and it will only really register when Sophie says very calmly, “I’m bisexual.” It’s such a non-issue for Sophie: and, of course, it would be. Coming out is an issue for her, and talking about her relationship with Mina is another issue, but being herself is the most natural thing in the world.

This book gave me courage; courage to feel love as deeply as I can, before it’s too late. Courage to love even though love is messy. Courage to believe that love can be the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s an incredibly brave book, because its content risks all that pathetic censorship but it doesn’t seem to care. It is just full of heart and soul, and you can tell that Tess Sharpe was incredibly emotionally invested in the story as she wrote it. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, regardless of age or gender, and am extremely excited to find out what Tess Sharpe decides to write next.

Georgie is a teen writer and bookworm from England. At the moment she’s working on a gay YA novel of her own and can be found procrastinating on Twitter (@missgeorgie) or else ranting on her blog (georgiepenney.weebly.com).