Cover Image: As Far As You'll Take Me

As Far As You'll Take Me

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this, it’s such a touching read which represents anxiety and mental health in such a honest and sensitive way. A moving and heartful coming of age story this covers a lot of tough issues and Marty’s struggles are sensitively portrayed and the book captures his messy relationships, striking the balance between struggle and hope. It’s beautifully written and very addictive reading, highly recommended 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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Sadly this was just a okay read for me! It’s such as shame as I loved Stamper’s first novel a lot and I though I would really love this one but.. it seems to just land a bit flat. I liked the characters and that a big plus for me. And it’s not a bad book at all sadly I just couldn’t really get into it.
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As Far As You'll Take Me is a fantastic read. It tackles experiences and mental health issues that many will relate to in an open and sensitive way. It could potentially trigger readers as it doesn't shy away from the topics it discusses. The characters are very relatable and the description of London will likely make you want to go and visit. An enjoyable read that many readers will relate to.
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This book is cute and engaging and features a coming of age story not usually seen in YA.

In this book, the cool kids play in orchestras.

I particularly loved how the author made a feature of the city of London at the beginning of the story - it was so well written it felt like an extra character.
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I really liked this book. I found the story easy to read and enjoyable. I appreciated the contrast between American and English Culture as well as the diversity of the characters. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ community and the tackling of Male Mental Heath such as Anxiety and Eating Disorders. I related to Marty's anxiety and really appreciated seeing his way of dealing with things (lists) as this is something I do. It was interesting to see the typical dynamics from heteronormative relationships in a LGBTQ+ relationship. I really enjoyed the U.K setting as an English reader as I was able to follow the journey's they took around the country.
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Marty escapes his small town and religious family to join his cousin in London, where he hopes to get a job playing the oboe. He has the summer to prove that he can do this to his parents, who think that he is attending a music summer school. Free from hiding his sexuality, Marty embraces friendships and romance but his anxiety spirals out of control. 
This is a very readable and believable story of a teenager who has been repressed by his very religious family and the small American town they live in. I was elated when Marty arrived in London and began to live freely for the first time, he makes a lot of mistakes and this understandably exacerbates his anxiety. Despite several things that go wrong, Marty learns to deal with his anxiety and finally begins the life he had been praying for.
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Nothing overly wrong with this one, just not for me.

There's a lot in this book that in theory would have worked for me, but unfortunately it didn't live up to what I wanted this to be.

WHY IT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:
-The concept really isn't unique - I've seen it been done many times before.
-I couldn't connect with any of the characters - besides Sophie, who was a side character, none of the characters worked that well with me, and in a character drawn novel like this, that is pretty important. Marty is quite a frustrating character.
-There's not a great conclusion at the end - We kind of have to accept that the eating disorder Marty develops across the novel just fixes itself, which isn't realistic.
-The writing is just okay in my opinion
-There's some inconsistencies in the character - Marty goes on about googling everything in advance, but there's a lot of quite simple things that he doesn't know the differences between (in terms of the differences between American and British English).

WHAT I DID LIKE:
-Sophie (obviously)
-The ending is good (besides leaving out some things)
-Discussions of toxic friendships - this is something I could relate to.

Big TW for eating disorders.
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I DNF'd this book 45% in. Unfortunately the anxiety representation was so accurate, it gave me second hand anxiety. And on the basis I didn't care for the characters and overall wasn't interested in the story, I wasn't willing to put myself through the anxiety to finish the book off.

TW for anxiety, disordered eating, toxic relationship/friendships.
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In January I read The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper and I loved it! It was so fun and nerdy, all about space travel and exploration with amazing characters. And ever since finishing that book I have been waiting to get my hands on a copy of As Far As You'll Take Me, Phil Stamper's second novel. 
As Far As You'll Take Me focuses on Marty's summer abroad in London, except he's not attending the prestigious summer school his parents think he is.. he's running away. My heart broke for Marty in the very first chapter, he's an incredibly sweet and passionate character who just wants to live his life as he pleases.
Phil Stamper writes novels that resonate with me so much, The Gravity of Us found the inner Space nerd in me and As Far As You'll Take Me spoke to the teen girl who practiced her squeaky clarinet until her brother shut all the doors. Whilst both of these novels dealt with serious and sad situations, the majority of the stories are fun and engaging tales about queer boys finding love in the un-likeliest of places! Phil Stamper writes with humour that is very much needed in contemporary LGBTQ+ stories while not shying away from the realities of life. As Far As You'll Take Me is another great read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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TW: anxiety, eating disorders, homophobia

Wow. Firstly, Marty is a better person than I EVER will be. He’s so wholesome and honestly deserves the world.
This book covers some really tough topics, in really honest and real ways.
I have so many feelings about this book (which is ALWAYS a good thing when you finish a book, cause if you feel passionate about the characters and story then the author has done their job well!) but I can’t divulge them ALL without spoiling. So I’ll hold the specific details but this book will take you on a real journey.
So powerful, so real.
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What an inspirational coming-of-age story! I picked this one up because I am, myself, very fond of travels and I changed my life moving far from home at the same age as him. This is the kind of story I would have loved to read at this moment because I needed it. And thinking about the fact young people will be able to read it and that it will maybe help them in their lives and decisions makes me very happy. I really liked reading it now, for it gave me some perspective on my own experiences and the story carries some very interesting messages that need to be talked about. The plot, the characters and the whole settings of the book create a wholesome and beautiful story that I would love for more people to read.

The writing style has something very cinematographic to it. I haven’t read The Gravity of us by the same author, so I won’t be able to tell you if it is specific to their ways of telling stories or just this book in particular. I really could imagine the scenes I was reading, in the way it is full of details but we stay in the point of view of the main character. In this way, there aren’t too many details, just the perfect amount, and it is for me a great example of the show don’t tell a lot of people adore. But this side also has its limits. In the settings itself, everything is very visual, which is great since the story deals with travels, London, Italy and others. But on another hand, we have some very explicative dialogues, which gave me the impression of a maybe too big contrast between the writing and the story itself.

It is a plot character-driven, all the way, but not specifically by the main character. This kind of gave me an impression of a long second act when the beginning was highly rhythmic. The main character evolves a lot through the story, in a lot of different aspects. He learns how to come out of age, how to open himself to the world and to new experiences after living in a tense and traumatic place all his life. He now has the chance and opportunity to be himself, openly gay and happy, but of course, life happens. And life sucks, for a lot of reasons. And in this way, the character development is very well made, even if I am kind of disappointed by some of the major dramatic points of the story, that I would have expected to be harder on the main character. Because I feel like the main changes in the character are driven by sometimes too-small events if it makes sense. For the other characters, what I truly love is their million shades of grey. We don’t have flat people, good or bad. But we have in-betweens, good people making bad choices, shady people having redemptions but not forgiveness, and a protagonist who navigates between all of them and learn how important having perspective actually is. There is also a bit of romance in this book, which I won’t talk about not to spoil anything, because the romance itself is here to deliver a strong message: what first love is supposed to be like, what are the limits of a relationship, how important it is to learn what we like and don’t like.

I loved all the messages behind the story, about our body image, toxic relationship and how to emancipate. Body image is treated through eating disorders (side note, please authors put the warnings at the start of a novel because I have been highly triggered and some sides of the story put me in a bad state – anyway) and it is very well done. What I mean is, the author not only build a character with anxiety and eating disorders, but he gives us some kind of context. The eating disorder is led and related to the toxic relationship he sadly experiences, and once he realises he is on a loop he can start getting better. Which is the hardest thing to do, even more at such a young age. But it makes the emancipation of the character even more wholesome. Because Marty not only learns how to end toxic relationships but also how to say no, or even when to forgive or not to forgive people we love on their mistakes.

I got addicted to this story and its characters. Even if the second part was a bit longer and I did not find some events strong enough, this book delivers messages that are highly important for the younger generation. Learn how to take control of your life by saying no or, on another hand, saying yes to opportunities. I highly recommend this one, even more, if you like the found family trope!
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A moving and heartful coming out/coming of age story as 17 y/o Marty comes to London from his conservative American small town, to pursue his passion for playing classical music, and to find/create an environment where he can be fully himself. His struggles are sensitively portrayed - a difficult, up and down romance, the painful process to connect with his very Christian parents, and wrestling own inner demons around food and anxiety. The world of classical music students is lovingly brought to life, and the book captures the messy ambiguities in his relationships, brings to life Marty's inner life powerfully and vividly, and strikes the balance between struggle and hope, Marty coming through stronger, wiser and grown further into who he's meant to be.

(Added to Amazon, link not up yet)
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As Far As You’ll Take Me is the second novel by Phil Stamper that I have read and throughly enjoyed. This novel shows how much he has developed in terms of the topics tackled in the book and his overall writing style. This is one of those books that I am sure so many people will love and learn so much from.

I was a big fan of Phil Stamper’s first novel, The Gravity of Us, which I read a year or so ago now, so of course I was incredibly excited to read his latest novel! This book is set in Europe which I loved because we’ve not had the chance to travel for a while and this book felt like going on a little holiday.


Marty as a main character is wonderful and he is such a fun character to see the world through the eyes of. Marty suffers with anxiety and it is discussed in this book in a great way. I throughly enjoyed seeing where Marty was at the start of the book compared to the end. I loved the passion for music that bursts out from the page and it really brought a smile to my face. 

Throughout this book we see Marty develop an eating disorder. This can of course be triggering for a number of people so please read this book with care and check for other warnings before reading. It was interesting to see how an eating disorder can start, especially when it comes to how those with an eating disorder desire to be seen by others. As well as how just casual comments can really affect someone. My only issue with this part of the storyline is that it feels quite superficial and the whole aspect was not developed enough for me. It did feel quite like an afterthought.

Toxic friendships and also toxic relationships are another thing dealt with within this book. This topic is approached so much better than the other topics. We see Marty learn to navigate which people have a positive impact on his life and how to deal with those who leave a negative impact on him and his life. We see him learn to find friends who make him realise what friendship is meant to be like. It can be way too easy to make excuses for ‘friends’ actions without realising the impact that they have on you and your life. It is the perfect example of found family and it made me very happy. 

This book is set mainly in London but other locations in Europe are explored. It is fun to read about travelling in a book, especially at the moment. The descriptions are both accurate but also you can often tell they are through the eyes of an American. Aside from that, the writing in this book is easy to follow and it flows nicely.

Overall, this book is very character-driven, is wonderfully paced and I enjoyed it a lot. It is an excellent YA LGBTQ+ contemporary standalone that I will be recommending a lot. I would just recommend checking out content warnings before reading this one. I am excited to see what Phil Stamper writes in the future.
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4.5/5 Stars

As Far As You’ll Take Me is Phil Stamper’s second novel, and a huge step up from his first, both in terms of his writing style, and in terms of the tough topics tackled. In As Far As You’ll Take Me we follow Marty, who is starting his new life in London with just his oboe, his suitcase and his meagre savings from his part time job in America along with him. He is determined to make the most of his time in London, escaping the homophobic Christian background of his parents and embracing his sexuality. There, he gets his first boyfriend and travels across Europe with his new friends and his cousin, but things aren’t rosy as they first seem as he grapples with finding a job, starts dealing with homesickness and struggles with his body image.

I enjoyed Phil Stampers first novel, The Gravity of Us, which I was also lucky enough to read as an ARC, so I jumped at the chance to read his latest novel, particularly as it is set in Europe, unlike many queer contemporary YA novels. First and foremost, Stamper’s writing this time round has definitely evolved – I found myself extremely engrossed in Marty’s story and had to force myself to put the book down while reading it late at night, my eyelids drooping as sleep threatened to take over. His descriptions of the places that Marty visit’s were incredible and, despite never having visited any of them, I could picture myself sitting in a rainy Costas with a cup of hot chocolate, or strolling the streets of Florence right there alongside him.

I think Marty was an excellent main character and I loved seeing things from his point of view. Just as in in his first novel, Stamper explores anxiety in a really great way, and just as it was one of my favourite things about his debut novel, I think that it was excellently tackled in this book too. We see Marty struggle with taking new opportunities and dealing with crowds and his coping mechanisms that he uses to deal with these situations and, as someone who also struggles with anxiety, I really related to him. A big part of Marty’s character is his love of music and, despite not knowing anything about musical instruments or composing, or anything at all related to music, honestly, I found myself really enjoying this aspect of the novel, particularly seeing Marty busking with his friends and feeling the emotion that is put into every piece. Similarly to subject matter in The Gravity of Us, you can really tell that it’s a topic that Phil Stamper is so passionate about, and that really shines through, giving the reader a real sense of that passion, too.

We get a really great found family in this book, made up of Marty’s cousin, Shane, and his friend group. I loved all of the side characters and I loved the queerness of this book overall. There were a few characters of colour there too, including (probably my favourite character in the book), Sophie, Marty’s new best friend in London. I loved how open and caring, and how unafraid of telling you what you need to hear she is. Alongside this, we also see a friend break up that I think was portrayed really excellently. I have also experienced a toxic friendship and I think the reluctance to leave the friendship because you know that there were some good times had despite how awful they can make you feel, was done so well, and I appreciated seeing Marty stand up for himself near the end of the book. Alongside that, the book also discusses romantic relationships that aren’t exactly all that healthy, and without spoiling anything, I also really welcomed that narrative.

As I mentioned, I found myself completely engrossed in Phil Stamper’s writing and, although I’d say that this is a very character-driven book, there were never any dull moments, and as someone who absolutely adores character driven books, this was really the perfect book for me! If I have one criticism about the book, it would be the disordered eating representation. Aside from the fact that it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the ARC as a content warning (I don’t know if it is mentioned in the finished copy), I think I would have liked that included, as disordered eating can be quite triggering for me. I liked that it tackled body image and toxic masculinity within the gay community, but I thought that it felt quite superficial and that this aspect of the story wasn’t developed enough for my liking – it felt almost like an afterthought to the rest of the story.

Regardless, I absolutely loved this contemporary standalone and I think it’s one of the best queer YA contemporary novels I’ve read in a long time! I highly recommend picking this one up and I can’t wait to see what Phil Stamper has in store for the future!
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

The Gravity Beneath Us was one of my favourite reads of Lockdown #1, so I was looking forward to Stamper's new novel. This book is less idealistic than his debut and more grounded in the realities and difficulties of growing up gay, which is definitely needed. Stamper doesn't shy away from unpleasant issues, and this book discusses mental health and eating disorders, and how you might make connection after bad experiences with family and friends. The friendship angle is particularly unique, as not that many books discuss how to identify and end friendships that may be close but ultimately contain elements of toxicity. However, the book also has many elements of joy: for music, for friendships and for loving yourself. A great read for any teen or any adult.
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As Far As You'll Take Me is a book that I found hard to review, because my feelings about it are really complex. There were parts I love, heart warming moments that made me smile, but there were also some parts that I thought could have been tackled better and that felt slightly gloss over. It's not the fluffy, feel-good book that the cover and the blurb might give, but I did think that it had its moments. 

The core of the story is about Marty leaving the nest and growing as a person outside the influence of his family and friends back in the US. Because so much of the story rested firmly on his shoulders and his ability to respond to the plot beats, there were moments where Marty's development feel a little short, but I enjoyed seeing how he started off the book compared to how he ended. I loved his passion for music and his desire to break into the music scene, especially when he started becoming more confident and finding himself as a musician outside the settings he played in and out in public - this was a really good way of seeing the changes that happened to him as he made decisions to break out of his shell. 

Not unlike The Gravity of Us, As Far As You'll Take Me deals with some fairly serious topics. Marty grapples with his place in the world, in a very geographical sense, having moved to London without the safety net he had in his hometown, and there's an exploration of what relationships can be like and body issues. In a way, it was good to see how body issues can manifest, especially in terms of how those you want to be desired by see you, and how casual comments can really throw you off. I do think, however, that this was brushed off a little bit, because the resolution and the way Marty dealt with it felt very off-the-cuff, which I didn't like. Toxic friendships and relationships are another thing that was dealt with, and I like this approach more than the body image parts: Marty learns to navigate who actually has a positive impact on his life, and finds some friends who make him realise what it was supposed to be like. It can be all too easy to make excuses for friends' actions without realising the impact they have on you, and I thought this was well done. 

The setting of the book, the city of London, was a weird combination of accurate though seen through the eyes of an American, and just off enough to leave me scratching my head. I don't think I've ever seen a sausage roll in a Costa Coffee, which was a small detail but still confusing to those who have a Costa nearby. The perspective is definitely that of someone who is not hugely familiar with the location, which threw off my reading some, but I don't think this will be an issue for readers in the same position as Marty himself. Aside from this, I found the writing easy to get through, flowing nicely, and the pacing was good. It was a readable book, if slightly short, which I like about it. 

I don't think this book is for everyone, but I do think that there are people out there who will really love it, and who will find what they need within its pages. I ultimately enjoyed it and I liked reading it a lot, but I didn't love it as much as I could have because there were some parts that didn't quite gel for me. If it sounds like a book you might enjoy, I would absolutely encourage you to read it, but I would also advising checking out the content warnings first. 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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As Far as You'll Take Me is a very authentic contemporary story about a young queer man exploring life away from his parents for the first time. Judging by the cover and blurb I was mistakenly expecting a light-hearted, feel good, coming-of-age romance. What I got was something a bit more intense, covering topics such as homophobia, anxiety, disordered eating and toxic relationships. All of which are very real, valid issues that should be explored, just not quite what I was expecting after the first few chapters! Despite covering a range of issues, it is not at all hard to read. This story feels so real, and it's easy to inhabit Marty's world alongside him.
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A well written story telling the tale of one gay teenager who thinks he knows what friends are but soon discovers that not all friends are friendly. A coming of age of any teenager boy gay or otherwise caught between knowing what you want out of life and finding actually that’s not what you want at all and maybe your parents aren’t always wrong.
Set in London with music college background this is well worth a read !
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As Far As You'll Take Me is Phil Stamper's second novel and after I'd read his first novel The Gravity of Us and thoroughly enjoyed it, this book was one of my anticipated releases for 2021. Unfortunately I was left feeling incredibly disappointed. There were so many times that I almost DNF'd this book because I just couldn't get through it at all. 

The characters were not very likeable, the writing was unbearable at times and the plot was just not very interesting. The book was set in the UK but was clearly written by somebody who had basic knowledge of the UK, which was very irritating to this British girl. Whilst I did enjoy some aspects to the book (such as the representation of anxiety and the aspect of friendship), it just felt like every other YA contemporary book I have read. 

Overall just not a great book at all.
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In the author's note Stamper tells us that he spent time in London for 'grad school'. I was very surprised when I read this, as this book reads as someone who visited London for a week and googled the rest. I imagine you might like this book more if you are a teenager who wishes to live or visit London or romanticises it or England in general. There's a whole lot of "urgh the coffee is so bad" in LONDON. As if you can't find speciality coffee shops everywhere. 

There's quite a few inaccuracies in this book - both factual (the first one coming to mind is someone with an Irish passport would not get a stamp when travelling to Italy) and story related (just some he said/she said stuff), these might have been addressed in the final version though. The reason why I'm nitpicking, especially with the passport issue is that our main character, Marty, looks up and googles everything so he would definitely have looked up the situation with travelling to different countries. 

Anyway, that's not my problem with my enjoyment of this book, just an observation. 

From the blurb/synopsis you can tell some of the more serious topics that will be addressed in the book - homophobia, anxiety. You pick this book up knowing these will play a part in the novel and are prepared for any negative feelings that may arise due to that. Nowhere does it mention negative body image and disordered eating. I wish I knew that going in, because it was a surprise to get to. It's not even handled very well, despite the author having lived experience. Crash dieting, calorie observation, choice starvation are all on page....and then it sort of just stops being an issue, it doesn't quite get resolved but a one off line is mentioned and then no more body image stuff is addressed... There is a lot of damaging information and not enough resolution or consequences, or talking about the negative aspects. The amount of weight he lost is significant, while we are never told a starting weight or a lowest weight, but we are told in terms of BMI numbers (it is also noted in the story that BMI isn't a great tool...but it's the one used), so if we go by Marty having an average or just above average height from the information we have then we can figure out roughly how much weight he loses in the space of a few weeks (more than twice of the high end of what is always deemed the "safe" number) ...he mentions losing a specific amount of weight in one week. There is an okay conversation about "what is your goal weight" "do you think that will make you happy" but it feels flat. The author's note at the back addressed disordered eating and gives helplines to call, but this information would be best at the front. Again, I don't know if it is better addressed in the final copy but I hope it is. 

I didn't like the insertion of the previous year's diary entries and them being in non-chronological order. They didn't really add anything to the story that wasn't already addressed or hinted at in the current storyline. An extra sentence or paragraph could have been added to explain what happened in the important diary entry but other than that they seemed a waste of time. We already had a lot of bloat for such a short book - we have many characters but not a lot of development or page time for most of them. I also didn't really care about any of them as I didn't know who they were. We were told about the great connection Marty has with them but not really shown. I really wanted more of Shane in the book, he was one of the only characters I liked and I would have loved for his and Marty's relationship to be explored more fully by the end. 

However, this book was a fast read. Marty's final position and confidence growth led to a satisfactory ending, dealing with his own development and story rather than romantic developments found in many YA books. The handling of toxic friendships/relationships was also handled particularly well in my opinion...with the exception of one scene that was again just glossed over and not discussed. 

I don't know how much the issue of the disordered eating and the handling of it soured my taste for this book. I don't know if I would have liked it that much more if it wasn't included or if I was prepared for it or in a better headspace for it. If it was handled better then maybe, but yeah....
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