Far Away

272p. Philomel. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524738594.
Gr 4–7—Although CJ's mom died when she was a baby, CJ has been talking to her for her entire life—through her Aunt Nic, a self-proclaimed medium who tours the country helping grieving folks communicate with their lost loved ones. So when CJ's mom tells her, on her 12th birthday, that she is being drawn "Far Away" and that this is the last time they'll speak, CJ rejects the notion. After all, CJ can drive stick shift, is comfortable operating a camera and a spotlight, and has navigated routes for Aunt Nic's tour through all 48 contiguous states using only an atlas. Why shouldn't she be able to figure out how to bring her mother's spirit back? Yet when CJ and her new friend Jax steal away from the tour to investigate, they find that the truth about CJ's mom, and the spirit that links her to Aunt Nic, is hard to face. CJ's journey is full of exciting twists and turns that force her to reckon with a magician's alliance, low tire pressure, a reality TV producer, and eventually, the painful truths her family is hiding. Graff's story is original, and she takes opportunities to touch on mental health experiences, specifically anxiety. Through it all, CJ is a headstrong but honest and caring protagonist, and Graff imbues CJ's story with many valuable lessons about forgiveness, respect, and honoring a variety of perspectives.
VERDICT A compelling coming-of-age tale that delicately approaches the complex topics of psychic mediums and grief.

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