Title: Be Not Far From Me
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
When Ashley and her friends decide to spend the night camping in the vast wilderness outside their small town, she has no idea what’s in store for her. After a horrible fight with her boyfriend, she runs away from the group, falling and seriously injuring her foot. She soon realizes that her friends thought she went home. They won’t be looking for her. Ordinarily, she’d be fine—she’s a survivor. But she’s far from the path markings and her foot is getting worse and worse by the hour. Does Ashley have what it takes to survive, or will she end up “missing” in the woods like so many others before her?
I really wanted to love this book. The premise is fantastic, and there are a couple of twists and turns along the way. However, the pacing is not phenomenal. The book starts with a bang, but there are a few too many flashbacks that weigh down the action in the middle of the book, and I often found myself skimming because I wanted to find out what would happen in present day. While these flashbacks serve to flesh out the main character and her relationships and motivations, they didn’t seem particularly cohesive. It’s rare that I say this, but I think the book might have benefited from a dual timeline. Perhaps the novel could have began with her lost in the woods, injured, with another timeline/flashbacks revealing what happened to get her there. However, the rationale for her being in the woods in the first place is quite shallow, so maybe the author would have had to have spent more time focusing on this in order to make a dual timeline work. The lack of focus of the flashbacks made them feel unnecessary, when in fact, they do provide some insight into Ashley’s backstory, making the novel read a little more literary than thriller.
That said, the best parts of the novel are the thrilling bits. We get a few intense sequences while she’s lost in the woods, but not quite as many as I’d hoped. The book gets more graphic than I’d expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The novel itself is a very quick read, so the issues with pacing shouldn’t deter you from this fun night of reading!
Characters & Language
The protagonist’s voice is this novel’s saving grace. She has a cutting wit and a dark outlook on life that makes her relatable and funny and actually made me genuinely care about if she escaped the woods alive. It’s rare that I combine the Characters and Language elements into the same section in a review, but in this case, I had to. The novel is written in first person present tense from Ashley’s point of view. We get a deeper sense of who Ashley is simply from her description of her surroundings and what is happening. Her harsh language and the way she thinks is what bumped up my rating for this novel an entire star.
The other characters are not as engaging, and this may be because there are quite a few of them and the book is too short. The flashbacks could have been used as a tool to make me more invested in her friends and family, but that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, these flashbacks provide the reader with the chance to see who Ashley really is, the mistakes she’s made in the past, and how this harrowing experience is changing her.
Be Not Far From Me is set in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere. This is a major appeal for those who want to read this book. The vast expanse of nothingness that Ashley must navigate in order to find her way home is quite chilling and if you’re afraid of the great outdoors and all the dangers it encompasses, you might want to stay away from this book.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a young adult survival novel that’s just as much a coming of age story.
* Thank you to OLA Super Conference and HarperCollins for the arc to review! *
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