As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper is a book that promised hot mess London greatness but that only managed to deliver a bland mess. – Inkish Kingdoms
Let me tell you a short story about this book. Phil Stamper came to my radar one day when I was on Twitter because he was upset since people started asking him if The Gravity of Us was clean for their teenagers. Although I am not a parent, I see why this question might be annoying. Not because the book characters have mild sexual acts means that your book is unreadable for those teens who have access to the internet.
I saw a year later how Phil Stamper was giving readers the chance to interview him, which I did. I got to know a bit more about his process to write a book, so I pre-order As Far As You’ll Take Me audiobook from Audible because I wanted to be part of the launch. I had high hopes for this book, but they were not met.
Marty grew up in a highly religious family, town, and state. However, he knew that the world was too big for someone like him to stay in such a place that by-default, according to him, will reject him. So, after saving for a whole summer, he escaped to London, under pretenses, to start his life anew in a brand new city without anybody knowing.
Starting the book, I felt so nostalgic because he was such a tourist. Phil, though Marty’s life, described every single thing about London and their ways. I experienced this excitement six years ago when I saw for the first time the grand city of London. The language and the difference in words made me so happy, and I felt back in that great city. However, the more I get to know about Marty, the more I wanted the book to end.
Marty is a character that struggles with every single decision, person, feeling, friendship and relationship. I understand that your worst enemy when you suffer from anxiety is spontaneity, uncertainty, and change – which is precisely what he is forcing himself to do while still complaining since people do not understand his struggles. – I honestly find this to be ironic –
Clearly, Marty does not know how to have healthy relationships, starting with his parents and ending with his best friends. Marty was so full of self-contradictions, and this had me wondering if the author gave us the character he wanted to deliver. Marty does not appreciate being forced out of his comfort zone, but his best friend bullied him to “get over it,” and if his new friends did not force him to get over it, he complained because they did not try to make him do what he did not want to do. – I know it is confusing but this is exactly what happened.
I am not sure if Phil was fully conscious about this, but he loaded Marty with problems. His anxiety was already enough, but Phil also covers the impossible and illogical body standards that the gay community is subjecting to itself. Body image a sensitive topic that must be handled with care because we do not want to give the wrong message to the target audience. Nobody ever mentioned Marty’s “flappy stomach” but himself. He was more conscious about how bad he looked and how he had to lose weight when nobody mentioned or pushed this topic on him to end in a temporal eating disorder. I feel Phil missed the point, and he did not deliver the message of loving yourself and being healthy. The resolution of all the conflicts happened in a few pages/minutes. His body insecurities did not go anywhere, and he just stopped caring. This whole topic became annoying and detrimental to the likeability of Marty as a character. His self-pity and self-harm did not seem to have a justification for the story.
Finally, and as a very personal opinion, Marty has never had any emotional/ sexual relationship with someone, but he wants to have a boyfriend, so he picks the first random guy he sees in London. For someone that has to have everything planned and that has to be 100% sure to take any small step, this seems, again, illogical and contradictory. There is this idealization of relationships that, again, does not get anywhere. There was not a message of love yourself first, or you will be ready when you are ready, or love with someone is not the only kind of love there is.
Although the audiobook included an interview with the author, I was more than ready to delete the download and move on with a better story when this finished. I feel disappointed that a book that started so well ended nowhere.
Note: the narrator is good, but he cannot do a constant British accent for his life.
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