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Far from Xanadu Hardcover – May 4, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Excellent characterisation makes this shine KIRKUS Readers will root for Mike in this heartfelt coming-of-age story School LIBRARY JOURNAL

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–Mike Szabo must deal with more than her share of problems in this engaging, angsty novel. Her alcoholic father committed suicide, her obese mother has given up on life, and her no-good brother has driven the family plumbing business into the ground. To make matters worse, Mike falls deeply in love with a new girl in their small Kansas town. Bad-girl Xanadu has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle after getting into serious trouble dealing drugs. She befriends Mike instantly, though she's undeniably straight, and Mike suffers when Xanadu starts dating. Mike copes by working out at the gym, fixing her neighbors' plumbing, leading her softball team to a winning season, and occasionally binge drinking with her friends. Throughout the novel, she struggles to come to terms with her sexuality–while she is attracted to girls, she doesn't want to label herself, and objects when her gay best friend, Jamie, tries to do so. The people of Coalton are accepting of Mike and Jamie, but eventually Mike realizes that she will need to leave her small town in search of a first relationship, and that her athletic talent might give her a way out. Despite the multitude of difficulties the protagonist faces, the story never slips into melodrama, and all of the issues are handled with sensitivity and compassion. Xanadu sometimes threatens to become a stereotype as the exotic, sophisticated outsider who is also manipulative and selfish. Overall, though, readers will root for Mike in this heartfelt coming-of-age story.–Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers; First Edition, First Printing edition (May 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031615881X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316158817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peggy Tibbetts VINE VOICE on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mike is buff. Mike makes All-State in fast-pitch. When the gorgeous redhead, Xanadu shows up in the tiny Kansas town, Mike falls madly in love with her. But Mike -- aka Mary-Elizabeth -- Szabo is a girl.

Whether you're straight or gay, first love is painful. And Mike falls hard for the exotic beauty from the Denver suburbs with a troubled past. A friendship sparks between them immediately but Xanadu is straight. When she falls for Bailey, one of the local cowboys, Mike's emotions are turned inside out.

Dealing with her strong feelings for Xanadu stirs up emotions that Mike has buried for two years. Growing up, her dad filled her head with a big dream of a softball scholarship to college. But her dream died when he committed suicide. Mike watches her best friend, Jamie find romance with Shane and latches onto the new dream that her love for Xanadu will change her.

Meanwhile, her coach, Mrs. Kinneson, also the school principal, revives her big dream by tempting her with the promise of a slot at fast-pitch camp. But Mike doesn't have the money and she doesn't accept charity. When the townspeople take up a collection to send her to camp, Mike comes to terms with her own self worth.

Her dreams collide when Xanadu comes running to her when she falls out with Bailey. Mike believes this is her dream that's meant to come true.

"Far from Xanadu" is a witty and sensitive portrayal of a gay teen that cuts through all the differences between us to the single life experience that unites us -- first love.
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Format: Hardcover
Mike is instantly lovable and heartbreakingly realistic. Her inner dialogs are not only believable, I couldn't get them out of my head. It was so refreshing to read a book about a gay teen that didn't have to worry about being teased and abused by peers as Mike and Jamie are both accepted and loved in thier home town Coalton. (although, a little too convinient)

There are many other things going on in this book besides Mike's love/angst for Xanadu. She is dealing with her morbidly obese mother who ignores her, her emotionally distant older brother, the lost family business, being the town softball champ, her father's suicide, and her friend Jamie's new cyber love. IMHO, the author tackles all of these issues well.

There is an internal element in this book that is often missing in teen literature, adding depth and feeling that made the book stay with me.

The down-to-earth ending resolves much for Mike, but leaves some of her relationships up in the air, astonishingly like real life.
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Format: Hardcover
Mike, the main character, is easy to care about. Her problems are complex and give her a lot to chew over as we get to know her: a dad who killed himself, a brother who's screwing up his life, a love for the family business, and a small town that's good to her but made her feel like a charity case. Frankly, the teen romance laid over the top of this is the least interesting part of the story.

Some aspects of the setting and plot are hard to believe. Conveniently, there seems to be one gay boy and one gay girl in this town, and they're best friends. No one is homophobic or gets in their faces about it, even though the boy is a cheerleader and the girl is a weight-lifting softball dyke. There are a few subtle signs of disapproval from adults, and that's it. In one way it's refreshing, and lets the book be about other things. In another way it's a little too good to be believed.

The plot strikes a balance among storylines about friends, family, dreams, and romance. However, Mike's refusal to believe what is right in front of her face goes on for much too long. It's a case of the reader seeing the truth long before the character, and having to wait for the character to catch up. The end featured a heart-to-heart talk between two characters who had been barely speaking to each other, and I didn't really see what had changed to make their relationship so much better all of a sudden.

So the story is somewhat predictable. The setting, while not entirely believable, is a beautiful place to hang out for awhile. Think idealized midwest, like in "Field of Dreams." And in the middle of all this, Mike and her best friend, and one or two of the other characters, do come to life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed this Gay YA book even though it had one of the factors I was trying to avoid reading in lesbian fiction: the not exactly happy, happy ending. I will say that I was actually glad the happy ending was an empowering one for the heroine and made me love Mike even more! This is one book I will encourage my daughter to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This well-written story chronicles part of the coming out struggles of a teen-age lesbian in rural northwest Kansas.

Two years after her father's suicide, Mary Elizabeth (Mike) Szabo is struggling to accept herself as her family is attempting to go on without him. Her mother has withdrawn into alcoholism and gluttony. Her older brother has given up on his future. Mike rotates between being a good student, the star of the local fast-pitch softball team, and the town's most accomplished plumber.

When a gorgeous new girl joins her tenth grade biology class, it is lust at first sight. Mike quickly befriends this new girl - Xanadu - as each recognizes the other as a fellow rebel. But while Mike is out to her best friend Jamie - a very out gay boy she has known for years - she is closeted to almost everyone else.

Mike and Xanadu quickly become best friends. However, Mike's friend Jamie quickly points out that Xanadu is straight. Mike is not sure; she hopes Xanadu will recognize and accept her love.

Some adult readers may find the language offensive in a couple scenes, but it reflects language that is in common use by teens.

This is another excellent book from Julie Anne Peters.
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