Title: Far From Xanadu
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: From the author of “Luna” comes this heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about a small-town girl who falls in love with the cool, complicated, and sexy new girl in town, but who is just out of reach.
Far From Xanadu was a book I borrowed from a friend, and not one I knew much about. It features a transgender protagonist, particular a female-to-male transformation, and it’s a great story for the most part.
Mike is a great protagonist. His voice is natural, he’s methodical, and the emotions he feels are very genuine. However, he ends up falling for a straight girl whom he is convinced is perfect in every way. When the novel wasn’t about pining for Xanadu it was perfect.
Mike lost his father, he has a broken relationship with his mother and brother, and he is attempting to accept the reality that he may be gay. These aspects of the story were so raw, so powerful, and the connection is quite deep. Mike is a jack of all trades, but with no way to progress in life due to a lack of funds and no actual support systems in his life. He gets scolded for a waste of talent, yet won’t accept people’s charity either. There was a lot I loved about Mike’s character that the narrative mostly worked for me.
Mike’s love interest Xanadu however? She’s a piece of work. I’m not sure if Peter’s intentionally wrote her to be horrific, but often she came across a user, an exhibitionist and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what Mike saw in her. Mike’s best friend, Jamie, constantly calls her out on her crap behaviour and yet Mike can’t see past it. While the novel ended exactly as I thought it would, it really broke my heat how used Mike was throughout the story. Xanadu never felt genuine, she was suppose to be exotic, but even that didn’t quite work for me. She just seemed as though Mike had to fix every single one of her problems, and like a puppet on a string, Mike obeyed. I’m sure this seems realistic for most, but Xanadu rubbed me the wrong way throughout the entirety of the story.
The novel was at its best when it was about Mike coming to terms with his identity and his family’s problems. When he was pining for Xanadu, the story just didn’t work for me because I couldn’t connect to the actual romance Peters was trying to put forth. I think Peters is a great writer and I’m looking forward to checking out Luna, but Far From Xanadu, though it does have amazing and thoughtful moments is far from greatness.