Tuesday 9 February 2021

Review: As Far As You'll Take Me by Phil Stamper

From the break-out author of The Gravity of Us comes a heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding your chosen people. 

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?

Review: Well in the opening of this book, Phil Stamper did what I never thought possible, he made me yearn for the passport hall at Heathrow Airport. It's not a very nice place and normally I'm very sleep deprived when going through there but Phill Stamper's writing made it seem like a glamorous place fill of possibility and from that moment on I was hooked into this book and Marty's journey. 

I listened to this book on audio and the narration was wonderful. I was concerned because a book about someone from the states being in London and the melting pot of accents that that would mean however this narrator did a great job with all of the accents he encountered and really brought Marty and his travels to life. There is also a great authors note narrated by Phil Stamper which I LOVED and the and interview between author and narrator which was such a great piece of bonus content. 

Marty is such and easy character to get to know and love because he is searching for his home. He is having the kind of identity crisis that we all have towards the end of the school when we have to go out into the world only Marty has the added fact that he is gay in a town where that is not something that is easily accepted and he also has anxiety making the thoughts of the big bad world even more daunting. I think that fact that I could really sympathise with Marty made me like him as a character even more but then the fact that he is suddenly dumped in another country which speaks the same language as him whilst speaking a very different language to him made me empathize with him. I have experience that but crossing the Atlantic the other way. 

I really loved getting to see London and all of its wonderful eccentricities through Marty's eyes. It really made me miss it but I enjoyed getting to discover it with him. This book is also one of a very small handful of books that mentions the immigration process, visas and work permits. It paints them to be the difficult things that they truly are and so thank you to Phil Stamper for that. Something else that this book does really well is explore the issue of forced friendship groups. Yes you're in the same class, apartment, band as someone else and so you're thrust together but that doesn't necessarily mean that you've got anything in common or even that you have to allow those people into your personal space. This is something that is hard to grasp when you start a new job, school or even move to a new location like Marty. 

This is definitely a challenging book and you should be aware it comes with care warnings for body dysmorphia and disordered eating, self harm in the form of self-starvation but it was so great to see this issues, alongside other mental health issues written about from the male point of view. So often these issues are only written about from the female point of view and can often become more of a stereotype but I admire the way in which these issues were woven into Marty's story. Without giving any spoilers I also really thought the ending of this book was perfect, I wouldn't have had it written any other way and I am just so grateful for the time I got to spend with this book!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US (UK publication date March 4th)

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