Too Far by Rich Shapero – A Review

I’m toofarnot really sure how to review this book because I’m not really sure how I feel about it. It’s definitely weird and very different to anything I’ve read before, and I think this is a good thing?

Too Far is a novel about a young boy who lives in Alaska with his parents who are struggling to stay in a relationship. The boy (Robbie) becomes close friends with a girl named Fristeen from a house nearby. Fristeen also has a troubled family, her father unknown and her mother a drug addict who leaves Fristeen alone for days. Together Robbie and Fristeen explore the woods near their homes and find an escape from the reality of their lives in their colourful imaginations. The book doesn’t describe actual events much but rather the weird depths of Robbie’s mind when he is playing in the woods, and the imaginary characters he creates.

I found this book in a dark shed for 50p so it seemed worth a try. I don’t normally go for anything that isn’t cringey teen fiction but I loved the cover of this book (never judge a book by it’s cover, I know..) and the blurb is amazing.

I found it hard to focus on the words a lot of the time, especially as I felt like a lot of the book wasn’t actually relevant to the story. There’s not much structure, but rather a kind of a visual and auditory hallucination of Robbie’s mind. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just saying that at some points I was suspicious Fristeen’s mum had shared her drugs. ‘The Dream Man’, Robbie’s main hallucination, is a representation of childish freedom and imagination, and provides a contrast to the mundanity and harsh reality of his home life (represented by Shivers?), where his mum and dad are arguing constantly. I liked this contrast and how it would alternate between chapters, Robbie’s real life and dream life co-existing.

Throughout the novel Fristeen and Robbie’s home lives deteriorate and this makes it harder for them to keep their childish imaginations, even though they need them more than ever. They become desperate to be together, which is quite sweet.  After Robbie’s dad leaves, The Dream Man and Dawn become harder to summon and you can see the children losing their innocence. Even though I felt like I should hate the parents I actually kind of liked them, although they definitely need to read a manual on how to raise children.

I thought the last few chapters were really tense and was becoming suspicious that Fristeen and Robbie were going to die out in the woods, which would be morbid. Instead Fristeens’ mum Grace and Robbies’ dad emerge out of the burnt cabin and carry them back down to their homes. I have to be honest and say I didn’t understand this scene at all, especially as they were covered in oil. I’m not sure if it actually happened or if it was a product of Robbie’s imagination, but I’m just glad they didn’t die.

Overall I’d describe this book as interesting, maybe like looking into a drug addicts mind would be. I’m glad I read it and I still think the cover’s beautiful, but it’s probably going to return to a dark shed again. It does deal with interesting and relevant issues of breaking families but in an overly flamboyant and metaphorical way.







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