Coming out, going places, and learning lessons… with some background music.
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT+
No. of pages: 314
A story about finding the people who become your home.
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?
What a cute little diddy! Stamper really knows how to craft a genuine coming of age tale harmonised with music, religion, and identity.
I felt the pacing was slow with ‘As Far As You’ll Take Me’ but I think it was due to me not connecting well with the material or the protagonist. Firstly there is a lot about music and musical instruments, which was fascinating and educational… but not something I’m not particularly interested in, so after a few chapters, my eyes started to glaze over with the depictions of music and instrumentation. Marty is anxious, quiet, a little bit of a mouse. A people pleaser. And I appreciate the experience of life from his perspective, but I can’t say my shoulders weren’t bunched up in frustration. I just wanted to yell at him to ‘get over it,’ or ‘wake up.’ Which is a great thing because as a writer you really want to pull emotion from your reader; but by the end of the novel I was, frankly, a little exhausted. But it does make for a great place for Marty’s character arc.
The background of the UK and Europe was magical – I wish there was as much time and care gone into painting the landscape as there was the musical elements of the story. I’d love to get lost in that ambience.
Marty felt whiny and without back bone for most of this read. Being an artsy type and fairly new to the gay scene, and the world at large, this innocence coupled with anxiety made it hard for me to get invested in his story. He’s the type of character I’d describe as ‘nice,’ not compelling, or cute. Other readers may love this type of character, but it didn’t connect with me so much. Maybe if the tone of ‘As Far As You’ll Take Me’ shifted to something more sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek I may have enjoyed it more. ‘As Far As You’ll Take Me’ is quiet, like its protagonist. Admittedly I put this book down a lot for breaks. I love the representation, but the cast were all a little vanilla for my tastes.
Marty spent most of the novel with blinders on. He ignored, or ran away from just about everything. Most of the novel is spent luring the reader away from tension, away from the interesting bits.
Pierce, as Marty’s love interest sent my alarm bells ringing from the first few sentences, I took an instant disliking to him. There were maybe a few moments where my opinion thawed from some cute scenes, but on the whole he never sat well with me from the get-go, so I think that was another aspect that had stopping me from really getting immersed in ‘As Far As You’ll Take Me.’ I just wasn’t invested in this couple.
All the things I’ve had issues with is what makes this book unique and a masterpiece in its own right. A realistic depiction of growing up gay and finding your tribe… and navigating all the potholes along the way. It just wasn’t the right narrative for me.
I predicted most of the book fairly early on, I was hoping for some more unexpected twists and turns, like I mentioned before, this book feels very vanilla.
I wanted more humour, more sass, more angst.
This is a soft recommendation for me. I think it does a great job for representation of gay youth, of mental illness like anxiety, eating disorders, and shed a light on social climbing and toxic relationships. With so many dark aspects in the narrative, I think that’s why I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was expecting to. But some readers may love this, but it’s not a story I’d recommend often.
Overall feeling: Unpretentious.
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