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The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle, Book 3) Paperback – April 28, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 266 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy Series

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On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2007:
“A huge work of massive ambition.”

Review, People, December 24, 2007:
"This is a rare treat that offers a bit of everything--romance, magic, history, Gothic intrigue--and delivers on all of it in 819 beautifully crafted pages."


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Libba Bray is the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle trilogy, comprised of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She is also the author of Beauty Queens and Going Bovine, which won the Michael L. Printz Award. Libba lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and two cats. Visit her at libbabray.com.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 640 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440237777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440237778
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (266 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

author spotlight
"I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already."-Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the author of the acclaimed A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama..." and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.

I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I could tell you the facts-I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and five-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I'm allergic to penicillin.

But that doesn't really give you much insight into me. That doesn't tell you that I stuck a bead up my nose while watching TV when I was four and thought I'd have to go to the ER and have it cut out. Or that I once sang a punk version of "Que Sera Sera" onstage in New York City. Or that I made everyone call me "Bert" in ninth grade for no reason that I can think of. See what I mean?

God is in the details. So with that in mind, here is my bio. Sort of.

TWENTY-ONE THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME
by Libba Bray

1. I lived in Texas until I was 26 years old, then I moved to New York City with $600.00 in my shoe ('cause muggers won't take it out of your shoe, y'know . . . riiiiight . . .) and a punchbowl (my grandmother's gift) under my arm. I ended up using the punchbowl box as an end table for two years.

2. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. Yes, I am one of those dreaded P.K.s-Preacher's Kids. Be afraid. Be very afraid . . .

3. The first story I ever wrote, in Mrs. McBee's 6th grade English class, was about a girl whose family is kidnapped and held hostage by a murderous lot of bank robbers who intend to kill the whole family-including the dog-until the 12-year-old heroine foils the plot and saves the day. It included colored pencil illustrations of manly-looking, bearded criminals smoking, and, oblivious to the fact that The Beatles had already sort of laid claim to the title, I called my novel, HELP. My mom still has a copy. And when I do something she doesn't like, she threatens to find it.

4. My favorite word is "redemption." I like both its meaning and the sound. My least favorite word is "maybe." "Maybe" is almost always a "no" drawn out in cruel fashion.

5. My three worst habits are overeating, self-doubt, and the frequent use of the "f" word.

6. The three things I like best about myself are my sense of humor, my ability to listen, and my imagination.

7. I have an artificial left eye. I lost my real eye in a car accident when I was eighteen. In fact, I had to have my entire face rebuilt because I smashed it up pretty good. It took six years and thirteen surgeries. However, I did have the pleasure of freezing a plastic eyeball in an ice cube, putting it in a friend's drink, ("Eyeball in your highball?") and watching him freak completely. Okay, so maybe that's not going down on my good karma record. But it sure was fun.

8. In 7th grade, my three best friends and I dressed up as KISS and walked around our neighborhood on Halloween. Man, we were such dorks.

9. I once spent New Year's Eve in a wetsuit. I'd gone to the party in a black dress that was a little too tight (too many holiday cookies) and when I went to sit down, the dress ripped up the back completely. Can we all say, mortified? The problem was, my friends were moving out of their house-everything was packed and on a truck-and there was nothing I could put on . . . but a wetsuit that they still had tacked to the wall. I spent the rest of the party maneuvering through throngs of people feeling like a giant squid.

10. I got married in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were in love but totally broke, so we eloped and got married in Italy, where he was going on a business trip. We had to pull a guy off the street to be our witness. It was incredibly romantic. Florence is still one of my favorite cities in the world.

11. I often write in longhand and type it into the computer later, editing as I go. Sitting in my favorite coffeehouse with a new notebook and a hot cup of java is my idea of heaven.

12. I'm related to Davy Crockett on my mom's side. Honest.

13. I grew up doing theatre and spent a long time as a playwright. I still think very visually when I write.

14. Some of my favorite movies of all time (subject to change when I think of other movies I love) are All About Eve, Brazil, Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, Citizen Kane, Harold & Maude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, and probably a million more that I can't think of right now. I have never made it through The Wizard of Oz without crying. Not once.

15. Naming my favorite books feels like naming a favorite child-impossible. But here's my list of some Y.A. books I love as of 4:03pm today. Tithe by Holly Black. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (not really Y.A. but I read it when I was 16 and it rocked my world). Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's what's on my nightstand to read: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. The Literary Opus of Daniel Elam by Daniel Elam. By the Time You Finish this Book You Might Be Dead by Aaron Zimmerman.

16. I love to be scared. Not "hey, I think I smell smoke . . ." scared, but creepy, paranoid, what's-that-out-there-in-the-dark, ghost story scared. It's no surprise that I was the girl who got invited to the slumber parties because I could be counted on to tell a tale to scare the bejesus out of you.

17. In homage to a book I just read entitled, FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART, I submit: The first boy who broke my heart (age 6) didn't want to sit next to me because I'd wet my pants in reading circle once and he thought I was gross. Damn my small bladder! The second boy who broke my heart (age 16) was a drummer with a band (the start of a trend, folks...) and he threw me over for a really cool chick I couldn't even bring myself to hate. The third boy who broke my heart (ages 20--24, ay yi yi . . .) was a strapping hunk of bodaciousness with the mind of Einstein. We had the exact same birthday, same year and everything. So the time he forgot to wish me a happy birthday was kind of the beginning of the end, I think. The fourth boy who broke my heart (age 25) was also a drummer. I had to stop with the drummers. The fifth boy . . . well, I married him, and if he breaks my heart, I'm going to burn all his favorite, rare import punk vinyl in the middle of the living room, so he's been warned.

18. I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already.

19. My Pennsylvania Dutch great-great-great grandmother was supposedly a psychic who could see and speak to the dead. Sort of a witch, I guess. Her husband was an undertaker, and she would have these visions of someone bringing in a string of a particular size (people were measured for their coffins in this way) and it would come true. Creepy stuff, but fascinating.

20. If I were stuck on a deserted island, the five indispensable CDs I'd take would be London Calling by the Clash, Quadrophenia by The Who, Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits, To Venus and Back by Tori Amos, and Elvis Costello's Greatest Hits.

21. I hate doughnuts. Weird but true.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Well, I spent the first 3/4 of this book racked by horror movie syndrome: you know, when you're watching the girl go down the long, dark hall and reach for the doorknob, having split off from the rest of the group, and you're yelling, "Don't do it!" at the screen? Only in this case, I was yelling at Gemma not to trust all the wrong people and misuse the magic she holds. She does both, repeatedly, for hundreds of pages.

Yet Bray's point seems to be that it's hard to know what to do when you're a 17-year-old girl, let alone when you carry far too great a responsibility and everyone around you is clamoring for you to hand it over to them. So while Gemma naturally distrusts the authoritarian Order and the Rakshana, she is more conflicted about her supposed allies in the realms, particularly two--make that three--individuals who are not nearly as dead as they should be.

At the same time, Gemma and her friends are trying to figure out what to do about their oh-so-scripted futures, not to mention troubles with family members. And Gemma worries over her feelings for Kartik, who pulls away, then doesn't, then does, even as she tries to make sense of events in the Realms and the warnings she is receiving in visions.

It kind of reminds me of how Harry Potter and his friends spend the middle of the last book glumly hiding out and quarreling because they lack all kinds of important information--and simply because they're teenagers and really don't know what to do next.

The Sweet Far Thing is a long read, but it is incredibly well written and moves at a surprisingly fast clip. (Watch for some lovely metaphors tucked here and there in Bray's prose.
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Format: Paperback
Thankfully, this is over. I thought I would never get through this last installment of Gemma Doyle trilogy. Why, oh why does this book have to be so long? Take out 300-400 pages of unnecessary secondary characters and going nowhere plot lines, its 5 epilogues, and "The Sweet Far Thing" would be a reasonably decent book (I suppose). But alas, Bray chooses to ruin her own rather original series with this endless and bizarre last installment.

I've read quite a few reviews and know how many people are disappointed with the ending. I don't really mind where all the characters end up in this story, but I rather mind how and why they get there.

Gemma's books have never been about romance for me. The underlying idea of these books is women's independence, I get it. So I probably wouldn't have minded Kartik's sacrifice if it made any sense. For me, he dies because of Gemma's stupidity. Should she have done what she promised to do in the end of book 2 (divide the magic among the inhabitants of the realms), none of the events in the books would have happened. Thus his death is pointless in my opinion. In fact, the more I think of the details of Kartik's death, the less I understand what and why exactly happened to him. Basically, Gemma stabs the Tree releasing Winterlands' magic, Kartik sucks in this magic, then pours the magic into Gemma and then becomes a part of the Tree. WTH just happened? Why does he even have to do it? If the Tree doesn't have any more magic, how can it have this power to accept his sacrifice and why is it needed? If the Tree still holds on its evil power, how does Kartik's sacrifice change anything? Doesn't it mean that the Tree will continue its evil business in the Winterlands and will eventually corrupt Kartik the same way it did Eugenia?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After 300 pages, I couldn't take it anymore. To give you some idea of the problem with the writing, here is an account of a person walking down the street, as it would be written by Libba Bray:

"I moved my left foot. Then my right foot. Then my left foot. Then my right foot. Then my left foot. Then my right foot. Then suddenly I realized that my left foot was no longer to be trusted. Then my right foot made lewd comments at me. Then I realized that my left foot was actually my right foot, because if you unscramble the letters in `left foot,' you come up with `ha ha I'm really your right foot!' I just didn't know who to trust anymore. Oh, wait, suddenly my left foot is my best friend and had my back all along, even though it threatened me once and killed my mother. Then my left foot started making out with my right foot for no apparent reason. Then I caved in to peer pressure from my so-called friends even though I'd made that mistake 4,000 times in two previous books as well as this one, so I used my magic in a way I wasn't supposed to, and of course, it turned out to be a big mistake just like it did 4,000 times before in two previous books as well as this one. Then I had a vision that made no sense. When I woke up, both my feet had amputated themselves in a desperate attempt to get the hell away from me. But I had to keep walking down the street. It was my last promise to my dying mother, who turned out to be evil, because when you unscramble the word `mother,' you get `two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame-seed bun.' So I moved my left stump. Then my right stump. Then my left stump. Then my right stump ... " (repeat for 300 more pages)
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