Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(76)So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

So Far Away

Publication Date: May 29, 2012
Pages: 336

Thirteen year old Natalie Gallagher has nothing to be happy about. Not only have her parents are separated, her Dad has a new girlfriend and her mother seems to have checked out of life, leaving Natalie alone to deal with the fact that she is being bullied by her former best friend.  With everyday that passes it seems as if things are only getting worse.  Her harassers are escalating, using details of her mother's private life to torment her endlessly.  While searching for evidence to defend her mother Natalie stumbles across an old journal that sends her to the library to research what she has found.

Archivist Kathleen Lynch is your typical, unassuming librarian. Her husband has passed away and her only child is estranged from her.  All that she has is her job and her dog Lucy.  She has a mountain of regret over the way things turned out with her daughter and when a young woman comes to them for help with a project.  After reading a news article about a teen suicide and a few thought out questions, Kathleen sees the signs of at risk behavior displayed in Natalie and is not about to let another young woman falter on her watch. With Natalie's mother is so wrapped up in her own problems, as parents are wont to do, she misses some very crucial clues to what is going on in her daughter's life. Kathleen learned that lesson the hard way - what happens when a parent misses those clues and is not about to ignore them again.  Unbeknownst to Natalie, Kathleen decides to intervene in hopes of saving Natalie in a way that she could not save her daughter.  Is her intervention in time or will Natalie become another statistic that could have been prevented?

Told in alternating voices we get a unique view of a bullying situation that is becoming all too common in our country.  We get to see the despair that Natalie feels as the bullying escalates and we get to see the urgency that Kathleen feels as she tries to alert someone to what is going on with Natalie.  And in between it all we get to read the journal of a young Irish maid who changes the course of Natalie's family history. The author did a fabulous job of getting us into the head of both Kathleen and Natalie, two characters who could not be more different, yet it feels as if we know them both intimately.

In the last few years awareness has been brought to the critical issue of bullying.  Kids all over the nation have been committing suicide to escape their bullies.  And while many of us (adults) may have experienced some bullying as kids ourselves, the cyber-torture some kids are forced to endure these days is beyond our comprehension.  I think that Meg Mitchell Moore has done an excellent job of giving the reader a glimpse of what that torture is like to a kid whose life appears to be falling apart and a woman desperate to redeem herself for past transgressions.

Bottom line, So Far Away, is a novel that I think should be required reading for parents.  While every situation is different, there is great insight to be found in the story of Kathleen and Natalie.  One key thing to take away from their story is that not only parents have the responsibility of looking out for teens, but anyone who has any interaction with teens, no matter how brief, has the responsibility of looking out for their welfare.  For that reason alone you should read this book.


Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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