Now that Marty is almost 18, he’s about to decide what he wants for his future, and finally moving to London is it. He arrives with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but Marty is 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.
To his friends back in America, 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, and his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse. Will Marty be able to finally find a place that feels like home?
Thank you Bloomsbury Publishing Plc and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.
Marty knows that he can’t stay in his small town in Kentucky. He just came out to his Christian parents and it didn’t go very well. He decides to lie to his family about entering a prestigious summer programme in a music school in London. He packs his oboe and moves to London where he tries to start his career as a musician. His parents don’t know Marty doesn’t have a ticket to fly back and he doesn’t intend to. He must find a gig as soon as possible to cover his tracks and find a way to stay overseas.
Of course, we all know things never go as planned.
This was a smart, heart-breaking and, at the same time, funny read. I really enjoyed The Gravity of Us, Stamper’s first novel, so I was quite interested in reading As Far As You’ll Take Me. I have to say, I found this novel more mature and I liked this one better.
First of all, I loved Marty. Marty has a very introverted personality, and he is such a worrywart and Stamper made this character so believable and relatable. Marty worries and stresses about the most trivial things, like meeting someone and unexpectedly ending up in a pub for an unplanned drink, or travelling without having decided which places to visit. I have been there, so I shared much of Marty’s inner struggles.
Secondly, I loved the plot. It was simple, but at the same time, the reader encounters lots of serious topics. I also thought there are a few similarities between the two novels, two recurring topics. Both novels discuss mental health and complex relationships with parents. In As Far As You’ll Take Me, I thought they are taken to a deeper level. I can’t say too much about parents/son relationship without giving out spoilers, but I thought that it had a clearer resolution compared to The Gravity of Us, the struggles are more organically integrated within the plot. Marty’s parents are fervent Christians and Marty’s story is about coming out to a family who has obvious difficulties in accepting their son’s homosexuality. The topic of mental health is also taken a step further when the plot moves into a discussion about eating disorders. It is all presented under a realistic lens but the writer brilliantly navigates them in such a delicate way and always with bits of humour.
The writing is flawless and the descriptions of both London and Florence are detailed. Reading this novel in London during the lockdown made me miss London even more. The personal experience and knowledge of British culture transpire through the whole novel and I loved all the funny comparison between British English and American English – hilarious!! As Far As You’ll Take Me is a more mature novel than Stamper’s debut. He has the power to explore sensitive and current topics and bring the plot and Marty’s adorable story of self-discovery to a satisfying ending. I can’t recommend this read enough.