As Far As You’ll Take Me

Bloomsbury. Feb. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781547600175.
Gr 8 Up–Eighteen-year-old Marty experiences anxiety that leaves him vulnerable to a variety of troubled relationships: with his nearly lifelong best friend, his mother, his potential new boyfriend, and the genuinely caring new friends he begins to make now that he’s left his fundamentalist Christian Kentucky home behind to follow his musical passion in London. Stamper offers readers a realistic and sympathetic antihero on the cusp of taking control of his own life. The novel is heavily character-driven, showing Marty’s social and psychological development across one summer through scenes that range from busking with his oboe to starving himself in order to lose weight. The emotional hues of each event, rather than dramatic detail, are the focus. Marty is insightful and introspective in a variety of relationships through which he develops recognition of his own and others’ weaknesses and potential strengths. Opportunities for growth steadily present themselves, and it’s the kind of emotional abundance older teens may experience as they emerge from the relative pliability of childhood into independence. Main characters’ races aren’t specified, and one secondary character has an Indian given name.
VERDICT Anxious and introspective teens will recognize themselves in Marty, whether they too share specific life attributes, such as sexual orientation or musicality. Recommended.

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