When I read Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters in June, I said I'd be adding her to my list of authors to look for in the bookstore. Luckily, I happened upon another of her books shortly afterward. As I mentioned in my last review, Peters generally writes about LGBT issues, sooo... not for everyone, I suppose, but I think she's brilliant.
In Far From Xanadu, the narrator, Mike is a buff teenage softball player in a small farm town who falls madly in love with Xanadu, the new girl at school who has a checkered past. Xanadu and Mike become best friends instantly, and Mike holds on to the hope that one day, they'll be more than friends. The problem, of course, is that Mike (whose full name is Mary-Elizabeth) is a girl. And Xanadu is straight.
What could have been a trite, predictable teenage story about forbidden/unrequited love or whatever (*cough*TWILIGHT*cough*) is actually a powerful novel about finding and loving yourself. Mike's got a lot more going on in her life than just the situation with Xanadu, especially within her own family. Her father recently committed suicide, her mentally unstable and morbidly obese mother hasn't spoken to Mike since the suicide, and her older brother has failed miserably at running the household and business in their father's place. Everything around her is in shambles, but she's struggling to find a way to pick herself up by the bootstraps and do something with her life. She thinks her ticket to happiness might be Xanadu. What she needs to figure out is how to be her own ticket to happiness.
I'm telling you, Julie Anne Peters is a master when it comes to writing emotions. I said the same thing when I reviewed her last book. You feel everything her characters feel -- it's incredible. It's a great read for anyone, I think, because I'm pretty sure everyone can look back at their teenage years and relate to Mike's situation. Maybe not as extreme, but, you know, teenagers are dramatic no matter how extreme or not-so-extreme the situation may be. What I really like about Peters' books is that I can absolutely see how integral and maybe even life-changing they could be to a teenager who is struggling with being "different," whether it's sexuality or something else. Any author that can use his/her gift to help other people is A+ in my book, and I think Peters is a master at that.
5 out of 5 stars
Read from September 5, 2010 to September 13, 2010