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

Title: As Far As You'll Take Me
Author: Phil Stamper
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 320 Pages
Publication Date: February 9th, 2021

Summary: 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? 

I received an ARC of AS FAR AS YOU'LL TAKE ME in exchange for an honest review, and I'm really glad that I did, because we loved working with Phil Stamper on his debut novel, THE GRAVITY OF US, last year, so when I found out that his sophomore novel was in the works, of course I added it to my TBR. After making AS FAR AS YOU'LL TAKE ME my last read of 2020, it's safe to say that I'm glad I got to close out such a chaotic year on a sweet note! So without further ado, here's my review:

As the summary explains, the story follows Marty, a gay teen escaping Kentucky for the summer to head to Europe and stay with his cousin. The excuse he tells his parents? He got into an exclusive summer program for musicians. The reality? He blew the interview but wanted to escape to London anyway, as the first step in his plan involving moving to Europe permanently, finding a permanent musical gig somewhere, and leaving his small town (and all of its small town mindsets) behind. But he's running out of money and finding himself caught up in more and more lies, so before he knows it, Marty is forced to make some important decisions, both involving his future and his friendships. 

I really enjoyed reading this book! I'm really a fan of Phil Stamper's writing -- I felt like I was right alongside Marty for the entire adventure, from the nerve-wracking escape to Europe, to the anxiety about his future, to feeling lost and confused and infatuated by the prospect of first love. And I really loved the found-family aspect of this novel as well -- while not everyone Marty meets in London has his best interests in mind, the group he manages to find of new people who support and encourage him were really sweet, and I loved reading about all of his exchanges with them. This book definitely gave me a sweet, heart-warming feel that I loved from start to finish, even during the scary and anxious parts. I read over 250 pages of this book in a single day because I just didn't want to put it down and I wanted to find out how Marty's European adventure was going to turn out!

As someone who also hasn't ever been to Europe, seeing it all through Marty's eyes was also super interesting. I felt like a tourist watching everything unfold, and I loved it! I fell in love with the way he described the scenery, the cities, and all of the cool places he's been. I also loved seeing the differences in food and culture between the United States and Europe! Needless to say, this book definitely fueled my wanderlust, especially since this 2020 was the year that I was supposed to finally travel to Italy with my family, but that trip ended up being cancelled due to COVID. I can't wait until the world finally is safe enough to travel again one day, because now I'm even more eager to head to Europe! 

(Spoilers in this paragraph, so skip to the next one to avoid them!) The only thing that jarred me out of the story a little bit was the part at the end when Marty heads back to Kentucky for a week to see his family. Once they find out about his plan to basically ditch all of them in London forever, they're still...totally cool with it? And do they ever really address the horrible things that they did to him the past? It just felt like it all wrapped up a little bit too nicely for how big of issues it seemed earlier on in the book, but of course, that's just my take on it. Other than that, I really liked the story! 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading AS FAR AS YOU'LL TAKE ME, and it was such a sweet read to close off 2020 with. If you were a fan of Phil Stamper's debut novel, or just looking for a sweet contemporary coming-of-age read involving a European adventure and a found family, then look no further than AS FAR AS YOU'LL TAKE ME! I hope that you all enjoy this book as much as I did! And if you've read it already, leave a comment down below and let me know what you thought. 

Also, I'm curious: What was your last read of 2020?


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