Expected publication: February 9th 2021 by Bloomsbury YA
Categories: Young Adult Fiction – Romance – LGBT
Young Adult Fiction – Social Themes – New Experience
Young Adult Fiction – Coming Of Age
The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli
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?
Thank you so much, Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books and Bloomsbury YA, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
TW: anxiety, eating disorder, abusive relationship, underage drinking, forced outing, homophobia
Marty is seventeen, when he decides to leave his own home in Kentucky, where he feels unwelcomed and trapped as a gay young man and to move to London. With his meager savings, his oboe and the support of his cousin Shane, Marty is determined to live his life, not longer closeted, exploring his sexuality, without his parents’ disapproval, making new friends and finding new opportunities.
But even though in a few weeks he’s made new friends, travelled around Europe and, maybe, he’s also gotten his first boyfriend, he hasn’t spoken with his parents in a long time, his anxiety and homesickness are becoming worse and worse and he doesn’t know how to financially support himself, without managing to find a job, his dream job. Will Marty be able to find his own home?
As far as you’ll take me is the kind of book that makes you cry, laugh and clap your hands at the same time. It’s a wonderful story about finding your own home and family, your own people, becoming stronger and more confident, an intense coming-of-age story, with a main character so relatable it’s impossible not to love him.
There are so many things I loved about this book. The writing style is brilliant and it made me feel so connected with Marty, the characterization is so good and the way Phil Stamper wrote the story it felt like I was there with them.
The author dealt skillfully with important themes such anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorder (the beginning of one), abusive relationships and the strength in realizing the truth about them and self-preservating oneself.
With sensivity and care, Phil Stamper talks difficult relationships, between sibling, parents and son, friends and boyfriends, in a very realistic way, with their fights and misunderstanding, but also withthe hope of changing something for the better.
This is the kind of book that, in the end, leaves you drained, but in a very good way.
The story is divided in two, swinging between Marty during this summer in London and a diary assignment he had to do for his school, set in the last summer. Chapters after chapters the reader is able to know what happened last summer, what pushed Marty to lie to this parents and move to London, what gave him the last push and strength and to follow Marty in his time in London, between music, art and new friends.
Marty is an incredible main character and I felt so connected with him, with his anxiety, fears and attacks and his mental health. He’s strong, stubborn and it was amazing reading how much he changed and grew and realized things during this book. I loved seeing him pushing himself, finding new friends, trying new things, being more confident and sure of himself and his talent. I followed him falling, making mistakes, realizing them, growing up and I’m so incredibly proud of him.
The characterization is brilliant. Not only the main character is relatable and so lifelike, but all the characters, main and side ones, are amazingly written and their relationships so true and realistic, with their feelings of envy, jealousy, resentment, love, affection and so on. Exactly what you would find in a group of teenagers.
I really enjoyed reading the parts about music and art and their importance. Above all I loved reading about the relationships and their complexities, like Marty’s bond with Shane, who is a wonderful and supportive cousin, his friendship with Sophie, Dani and the others. Marty is surrounded by great friends, with their own intricacies and problems, tensions, hopes and dreams. I absolutely love Shane and his relationship with Marty, he’s such an amazing character.
The trope of found family is one of my favourite ever. I love the idea of finding your own people and home, a place where you can be accepted and loved, even though your biological family doesn’t get you. I loved the way Marty was able to find his place and people, his home and the courage and strength of cutting away those who were hurting him.. It takes great strength and the way the author wrote this part was heartwrenching and so true.
I was really impressed by this book and I saw myself so much in this story, about abusive friendship, the struggle with anxiety and his lists and being able to function every day and the importance of support, help and healing.
I totally recommend this book to…basically everyone! It’s such a wonderful and intense story, with friendships, love, found family, the courage of being oneself and to find your own home and people. It filled me with so much warmth and joy!
The author was so amazing to create a blogger interview form, so here’s my Q&A!!!!
Where did you get the inspiration for As far as you’ll take me?
I took a lot of inspiration from my own life while writing As Far As You’ll Take Me, which is why it’s such a personal story to me. As a queer teen, I always felt like I needed to escape my conservative rural village, and I was able to do that in college, studying music, falling into a group of wonderful and accepting friends who became family.
But even though I could finally be myself for the first time, I really had to come to terms with my anxiety, I fell in love with the wrong guys, and I struggled with a ton of body image issues. I lived in London for a while, which is what inspired the setting. So, putting all of that together, I was able to fictionalize a lot of my own experiences and bring them into the dazzling environment in London and across various European travels.
What advices would you give to aspirant writers?
I’d say my main advice is to keep trying. Focus more on the process of writing than on one specific book. The market’s always moving, and things are so subjective. I know every time I write a book, I get the feeling that that is my best work. But as soon as I put my soul into another piece, I realize it’s not true. So keep improving your craft. Keep trying out new stories. Write what comes naturally to you, even write what doesn’t. Try a bit of everything, really.
I received 92 total rejections from agents between two books, and 84 rejections from editors between three books. (And I’ll likely have plenty more rejections in my future!) This industry is not kind to its artists—even the nicest rejections hurt, bad. But I think you grow so much with each rejection and with each new story, that as long as you keep trying, one day it will turn around. Just know that for every supposed “overnight success” there’s usually years of frustration leading up to it that we never hear much about. Know you’re not alone, and stick with your writer friends—they’ll get you through the worst of it!
Could you tell me five random things about you?
Whew, I’m always bad at this, but let’s try: 1) I’m a classical pianist and studied music in college, 2) After I graduated from college, I moved into my friend’s walk-in closet in D.C. while trying to find my first job, 3) I used to have a blue truck named “Rio”—this is a character name in As Far As You’ll Take Me, but there’s no relation other than that I like the name, 4) I don’t collect cassettes, like Cal does in The Gravity of Us, but I do collect a lot of retro stuff: old magazines, retro video game systems, and records. I really got to explore my own feelings about nostalgia while writing that book, and 5) I put Frank’s Red Hot sauce on pretty much everything.
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.
When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write…
Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. But at the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his bestselling debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was first published by Bloomsbury YA in February 2020. His sophomore novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me, comes out February 2021.