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Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Published: 1976
Pages: 87

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else is a short novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. Unlike her more well-known works, such as The Dispossessed and A Wizard of Earthsea, this story is not set in a science fiction or fantasy world; rather, it centers around a pair of intellectual high school students. The main character, Owen, is basically a geek/nerd/insert your favorite label here (he uses "bright little jerk") who has issues with his parents' desire for him to be "normal." He meets a quiet girl named Natalie, who is a talented musician, and she becomes his friend. They both finally have someone to talk with and can explore their thoughts about life, problems, and their plans for the future. Owen becomes conflicted and confused about Natalie, mainly due to his own misunderstandings of the difference between love and friendship, and they have to figure out exactly what kind of friends they are.

Sound cheesy? Angst-ridden? Boring? Maybe it's a plot that could have been that way in the hands of some writers. However, it seems to be an honest, well-written book that doesn't claim the sky is falling when a character feels a little depressed or something bad happens. The negative emotions Owen feels are those of apathy, confusion, isolation... he's not one to complain of this. He just drifts farther out into the fog.

The story doesn't end so much as the book simply stops at a sort of convenient point. Yet there is a kind of emotional closure and resolution in his relationship with Natalie. This type of ending shouldn't really surprise someone who's famliar with LeGuin's writing, as a similar feeling ends many of her books.

Personally, I love this book. I identify with both characters, but when I first read it, Owen resonated with me so clearly that it almost felt like LeGuin had somehow peeked inside my head and taken notes on the way I think and feel and dream. If nothing else, read this book for the potential quotes that appear on nearly every page, such as: "Sometimes I wonder if introverts have a peculiar smell, which only extraverts are aware of" and "If you are going to be an egghead, you might as well be a hardboiled one."

Summary: This is a short, thought-provoking piece for introverts, nerds, friends, teens, and/or human beings to read. Perhaps it's a fairy tale. Maybe people don't really have the kind of friendship that Owen and Natalie do in this book. But on the off-chance that they do... find a copy of VFAFAE. Read it.

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