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Far from Xanadu

Review

Far from Xanadu

Mighty Mike Szabo is a softball champion growing up in a small Kansas town. Mike works for the feed store, drives a truck, lifts weights, and when the beautiful and exotic Xanadu moves into town, Mike falls in love with her. The only problem is that Mike is a girl and Xanadu likes boys.

Julie Anne Peters, the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels for young people, has made her reputation writing about young people struggling with sex and gender identity. FAR FROM XANADU features the life and struggles of Mike Szabo, the only lesbian in a small Kansas town.

Contrary to the popular portrayal of small towns in the Midwest, Mike's neighbors have no problem with her sexual identity. They are a highly supportive, if somewhat traditional, community who are deeply committed to Mike and her future. It is Mike, herself, who struggles with what it means to be the only lesbian in town and in love with a girl who does not return her feelings.

Peters, a Denver author, has a deft touch with the Midwestern dialect. She writes about Coalton and its inhabitants with a deep knowledge and affection for the Midwest. Her descriptions and characterizations ring true. So does her refusal to simplify FAR FROM XANADU into a simple, issue-driven, teen novel.

At its simplest FAR FROM XANADU is about unrequited love and what happens when a person falls in love with someone just slightly out of reach. While Mike's sexual identity is a big part of the story, it is not the book's exclusive focus. The best parts of the novel feature Mike's friendships with her flamboyantly gay best friend Jamie, and with the devastating Xanadu. Instead of dwelling exclusively on the external pressures Mike faces, Peters writes about Mike's internal battle for self-acceptance. As Mike says, "I just wanted to get past wishing I'd been born different, to accepting that I was. Finding the joy in that."

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on April 1, 2007

Far from Xanadu
by Julie Anne Peters

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 031615881X
  • ISBN-13: 9780316159715