I was not prepared for how much I loved Tess Sharpe’s Far From You.
When Sophie Winters was 14, she barely survived a car accident that left her scarred inside and out. From that moment forward—after all of the surgeries, the physical therapy, the injections, developing and then overcoming an addiction to prescription drugs—she has been in constant pain.
Three years later, she and her best friend are running a quick errand before heading to a party, when they are attacked by a masked man who knocks Sophie out and murders Mina. Due to the Oxy found in Sophie’s coat—Oxy that she swears up, down and sideways wasn’t hers, despite the fingerprints that suggest the contrary—the police chalk the killing up to a drug deal gone wrong, everyone blames her for Mina’s death, and she is shipped off to rehab.
Three months later, she’s out, and she has three goals: Stay clean, find out who killed Mina and make him pay.
I have six and a half pages of notes in front of me, but they can be condensed into four words: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s about friendship, loyalty, trust and love; about betraying the person you love most in the world in order to save her; about addiction and grief, guilt and shame; about fear, family, and about how no one knows how long they have in this life: sometimes, someday never happens.
I’m going to go into a bit more detail below—there will be spoilers!—just know that it’s a profoundly satisfying book on all levels: The mystery is well-plotted and suspenseful; the cast is full of well-rounded, three-dimensional characters who have complex, meaty relationships; it’s emotionally honest, thoughtful and may well inspire some readers to re-examine their own lives.
The mystery. Did I peg the killer right away? Yes. Was the situation WAAAAAY more complicated than I originally thought? YES. Add to that: Sophie’s connections to law enforcement (bounty hunter aunt, lawyer mother) give her a strong understanding of the investigatory process, while her complete DISTRUST of law enforcement (the detective who assumed she was lying) makes her refusal to ask for help completely understandable. Also, Sophie is not the only actor in this drama: In giving the other characters agency (and practicality, yay), Sharpe neatly avoids the old One Question Would Unravel The Entire Mystery trope.
Sophie. She’s so angry. SO angry. And she’s somewhat self-destructive. Both of those traits are easily explained, but so is the fact that so many people are so invested in helping her heal. Even in her less-likable moments, there is much to love about her: her strength, her tenacity, her passion, her loyalty, her intelligence, her empathy. Her narration covers multiple timelines, and while she is at a different place—in terms of maturity, understanding, desire and perspective—in each of them, she is always the same person.
Sophie and Mina. At first, Mina reads like a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but as Sophie gets past her idealized Hallmark memories and starts sharing the more difficult ones, she becomes a real, complicated person, capable of being bossy, cruel, loving and kind. As more and more is revealed about their history and friendship, it becomes clear that they were in the midst of a tragedy before Mina was murdered: They were in love with each other, but for various reasons, they avoided talking about it. They make each other feel whole, but due to fear and prejudice, they ultimately miss out on the brief time they would have had together.
There are a million other strengths I could go on about—Sophie’s relationship with Mina’s boyfriend, the love triangle between Sophie and Mina and Mina’s brother, Sophie and her parents—but I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Instead, I’ll wind this up by awarding Bonus Points to Tess Sharpe for two things: introducing me to the idea of bear repellant for offensive purposes, and Sophie’s rage-fuelled moment with the zip tie handcuffs.
DO NOT MISS THIS ONE.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.