Be Not Far from Me

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Be Not Far from Me Book Poster Image
Harrowing survival tale of teen lost in the mountains.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Includes survival lessons readers will hopefully never have to use. Don't ever drink water that's not moving, as still water carries all kinds of bacteria. Explains how to build a lean-to shelter, make a "rope" out of your own hair, and start a fire in the woods using nothing but friction.

Positive Messages

Never give up, no matter what happens or how scared you might be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ashley is a complicated role model. On one hand, she does what she thinks she needs to do to get by (earning money watching over her uncle's meth lab) and has been punching people out since childhood. On the other hand, she never gives up, whether it's competing in a cross-country race or finding herself in the mountains alone and lost in the driving rain. She looks for a solution to the problem and then acts on it.

Violence

A character is shot with buckshot. Ashley punches a boy hard enough to knock him off his feet and bashes a girl over the head for putting a toad in a fire. Ashley's mother smacks her across her mouth, and a character is beaten unconscious by drug dealers. An animal is killed in a graphic way that might disturb some readers. There's a gory action taken in response to an injury. 

Sex

Ashley overhears her boyfriend having sex with an old girlfriend.

Language

Characters regularly use profanity: "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens get drunk on beer and smoke weed. A character is hired to guard her uncle's meth lab.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mindy McGinnis' novel Be Not Far from Me is narrated by Ashley Hawkins, a tough, stubborn, don't-even-think-about-messing-with-me teen. Ashley and her friends are celebrating the beginning of summer break with a camping trip into the Smoky Mountains. That night, she overhears her boyfriend having sex with an old girlfriend, and after confronting them, Ashley bolts from camp and runs so far away that she can't find her way back. To make things even worse, she's mangled her foot in a fall. Ashley must now use her considerable outdoor skills to survive a harrowing 15 days lost in the mountains. There's a fair amount of profanity ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch"), and Ashley has a long history of punching people she feels have done her or someone else wrong.  A character is shot with buckshot. Ashley's mother smacks her across her mouth, and a character is beaten unconscious by drug dealers. An animal is killed in a graphic way that might disturb some readers. There's a gory action taken in response to an injury. Teens get drunk on beer and smoke weed. A character is hired to guard her uncle's meth lab.

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What's the story?

Ashley Hawkins, the narrator of BE NOT FAR FROM ME, lives in a trailer with a single father who works double shifts, and knows what it is to be hungry. But that's all about to change, as she's won a cross-country scholarship to college. To celebrate the end of school, she and several of her girlfriends hike up to a campsite in the Smoky Mountains for "boys and beer." One of those boys is her boyfriend, Duke. But Duke's old girlfriend has shown up as well, and later that night, Ashley overhears them having sex. Drunk and angry, she takes off running. She runs so far she has no idea where she is or how to get back to camp, and she's badly injured her foot in a fall. Fortunately, Ashley has grown up in the woods and has a serious set of outdoor skills. She knows how to start a fire, where it's safe to drink the water, and how to build a shelter out of whatever's nearby. Setting a goal of two miles a day, she fashions a crutch and begins walking as best she can. But her foot becomes infected, and as the days pass, she must take desperate measures to ensure she has even a slim chance of survival.

Is it any good?

This is a tough, gritty, and sometimes shocking survival story that, despite a few incidents that stretch the imagination, is certain to captivate fans of Hatchet and Wild. Most of Be Not Far From Me unfolds as an interior monologue, something that readers who might prefer the story to move along through dialogue may find tough going.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it took for Ashley to survive in Be Not Far from Me. Have you or someone close to you ever been in a situation where you were lost and alone?

  • If you needed help and didn't have a cellphone (or access to one), what would you do?

  • How much of a role do you think drinking played in what happened to Ashley?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and strong girls

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