Far from Xanadu Review
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When Mary-Elizabeth “Mike” Szabo’s father committed suicide two years ago, something inside her died, too. Mike’s dad always encouraged her to follow her dreams—her dreams of becoming a pro softball player and of one day taking over the family plumbing business. But Mike’s dreams died with her father, and she finds herself just going through the motions. She goes to school. She plays softball. She works at the Mercantile. She hangs out with her friend, Jamie. And she trudges through life with her worthless brother and her obese mother, who hasn’t said a word to Mike since the day of the funeral.

But all that changes when a mysterious redhead walks into Mike’s geometry class one morning. Xanadu is gorgeous, and she’s got a few dark secrets in her past—which is why her parents sent her to live on her aunt and uncle’s farm. Mike instantly falls in love with Xanadu, but she’s afraid to admit her feelings, since Xanadu is obviously straight—and head-over-heels for Bailey McCall.

Everything changes once Xanadu shows up. While Mike agonizes over her feelings for her new best friend, she also begins to face her future. Her softball coach starts digging up Mike’s long-buried dreams with talk of softball camp and college scholarships and going pro—and no matter how much Mike tries to ignore her future and her chance to succeed, the rest of the town won’t let her.

Far from Xanadu is a well-written, moving novel that does an excellent job of focusing on gay characters without alienating straight readers. Mike is more than just a gay teenager—she’s every teenager. She struggles with her identity and with feelings she doesn’t exactly understand. And her story brings back powerful memories of teenage uncertainty and high school crushes—those intense, one-sided relationships with someone who barely knows you exist. It may be the story of a gay teen, but gay and straight readers alike will be able to relate to Mike—to her dreams, her fears, and the excruciating pain of unrequited love.

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