Title: A Long Way From You
Author: Gwendolyn Heasley
Publisher: Harper Teen
May Contain Spoilers
For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne’s family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village.
Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers—namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin—Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.
When I saw that Gwendolyn Heasley had a follow up to Where I Belong, I was quite excited to read it. I enjoyed her first book, and found myself overcoming my initial dislike of Corrinne as she matured into a more compassionate human being. At the start of her story, she is spoiled, over-indulged, and not likable. Not at all. But as her family’s financial circumstances deteriorated, she was forced to take a long look at herself and decide whether she wanted to continue being a selfish, immature person. Unfortunately, the Corrinne that we meet in A Long Way From You is sadly similar to the Corrinne at the beginning of Where I Belong. Her New York friends, obviously, were not good for her personality, but I digress.
In this outing, Kitsy is the star, and I never had a problem liking her. Kitsy is bubbly and fun, despite her difficult home life. Her mother is not an ideal caregiver, and Kitsy is the adult in their house. She cares for her younger brother, as well as her mother, cooking, cleaning, and keeping everything running as smoothly as a teenager in charge of a household can. She is the breadwinner, and her checks from her job at Sonic keep the lights on and food on the table, but just barely. Kitsy has so many dreams, too, but as shackled as she is to the well-being of her family, it is unlikely that she will ever see them realized.
When Corrinne’s family volunteers to sponsor her in New York City so she can attend summer art school, it’s a dream come true. Though she’s excited to attend, the reality of leaving her brother in their mother’s questionable care is almost enough to keep her home in tiny Broken Spoke, Texas. There are so many things that can go wrong during her absence, and her mother is so unreliable. When she is accepted into the summer art program, it’s with a great deal of trepidation that she accepts the plane ticket to NYC, and her summer of adventure.
I was under the mistaken impression that this is a romance. It’s not, not really. This is the story about a young woman who is given the chance to discover who she is, away from the stifling expectations of her small town. Nobody knows Kitsy in NYC, and she loves the freedom that brings. She can become anyone she wants to be, without her mother’s failures to hinder her. She isn’t expected to be anyone’s steadfast girlfriend, or the level-headed older sister who has been given far too many responsibilities for far too long. I loved reading along with Kitsy as she rebels against the perfect girl she is supposed to be. When she meets a handsome guy who is just as interested in art as she is, she looses her sense of caution and takes risks and chances she would never have done at home. Finally, in the crush of humanity that is NYC, she is given the freedom to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them as she makes them.
I enjoyed this quiet, feel good read. Kisty’s New York adventure forces her to reassess her life and her dreams, and helps her to face her problems at home. The resolution of her strained relationship with her mother is too easily won, but I found this book a fulfilling read. I liked the protagonist and her new friends, and found A Long Way From You hard to put down. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.
Review copy provided by publisher