Far Far Away



Clever, creepy modern fairy tale with irresistible heroes.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Because Far Far Away is narrated by the highly educated ghost of Jacob Grimm, readers will get a feel for the vast body of folk tales that the Grimm brothers collected and gain an understanding that the tales were not as sweet as many believe them to be today. In addition, Jacob emphasizes the importance of study and education and teaches Jeremy many sophisticated vocabulary words and a smattering of foreign phrases.

Positive messages

Love and friendship are worth taking a risk for. Focus on your studies and to be wary of people pretending to be friends. Ultimately, you have to make your own decisions in life.

Positive role models

Jeremy's a conscientious and kind, even though his classmates and the adult villagers have teased him ever since he admitted that he hears voices. Jeremy cares for his father and is a loyal friend to the ghost Jacob despite the ridicule he receives. Jacob cautions Jeremy to focus on his studies and to be wary of people pretending to be friends. Ginger is lively, with a disregard for rules that Jacob finds offensive but Jeremy secretly admires. Although her motives appear suspect at first, she's actually a brave and charming girl who becomes Jeremy's most loyal friend and ultimately galvanizes Jeremy into being brave himself.


A man gives a teen boy and girl a drink that makes them pass out and then locks them in his basement, where another teen boy is being held captive. The man starves them, causes them mental anguish, and eventually tries to kill them.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Far Far Away takes place in the present but has the feel of a classic fairy tale. It opens with foreshadowing that something awful will happen, which gives the novel a creepy tone throughout. Main character Jeremy has been ostracized by his classmates because of his strangeness, but he doesn't let the teasing change who he is. Three teens are held captive by a man who has appeared harmless and friendly for most of the story. They are starved and mentally tortured, and eventually the man tries to kill them. Main character Jeremy is teased by his classmates because of his strangeness, but he doesn't let it change who he is.

What's the story?

In the small village of Never Better, Jeremy Johnson Johnson has been haunted by the ghost of Jacob Grimm since he was a boy. The two have become close friends, but because Jeremy apparently talks to himself and often blurts out strange bits of information, his classmates and the villagers ridicule him. Jeremy's life changes the day wild and beautiful Ginger decides to befriend him. When Ginger invites Jeremy to join her in playing a prank on the town baker, their bond is cemented and Jeremy begins to veer from the careful path of solemn study that Jacob has laid out for him. Ginger comes up with a plan to help Jeremy save his family's bookstore, which launches the two of them on an adventure that may help them solve the mystery of the village's disappearing children -- or lead to their own deaths.

Is it any good?


Though the story takes place in a modern American village, it evokes the feel of a classic fairy tale, the kind where truly horrible things may indeed happen along the way to happily ever after. Woven throughout is a rich respect for stories and storytelling, but the real strengths of this book lie in its creepy undertones and its cast of complex characters who are always more than what they appear to be: Bullies have deep emotions, loving parents are neglectful, and a well meaning ghost sworn to protect offers misguided advice. Author McNeal deftly plants hints of the very real dangers to come as villagers vaguely wonder why so many children are disappearing, all the while munching on the town baker's delicious Prince cakes.

Jeremy is an instantly likable hero readers will root for despite -- or maybe because of -- his initially humble appearance. As his unlikely friendship with the daring Ginger blossoms and their lives take a distinctly Hansel-and-Gretel turn, the courage and cleverness they inspire in each other is worthy of any of the old tales.


Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about fairy tales. How have Disney movies have changed the perception of what a fairy tale is, compared with the original tales collected by the Grimm brothers and others in the 19th century?

  • Why do you think Disney movies leave out some of the more gruesome aspects of the old tales? Do you think this makes them better?


  • How does the ghost of Jacob Grimm compare with other ghosts you've read about or seen in movies? In what way is he a typical ghost? In what ways is he different?

Book details

Author:Tom McNeal
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Fairy tales, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:June 11, 2013
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written bylori.z June 4, 2015

Silence of the Lambs for kids!

*Spoilers here* A well written, suspenseful book, but extremely inappropriate for kids. Let's see: 3 kids are abducted by the town baker and kept in cells in his basement. He slowly starves them. He tells them that their parents have forgotten about them and they'll never get out. When he's displeased with them he puts them in total darkness and plays recordings of the dying screams of other children he's murdered at high volume for hours. He also terrorizes them by playing recordings of what sound like rats scurrying around on the floor in the dark. When they're almost dead, he brings them disgusting, moldy food with no silverware and watches as they eat like starving animals with their hands. A librarian recommended this to my sensitive 9 year old. Nice. So glad I happened to pick it up before he got too far into it.
Kid, 11 years old August 18, 2014
I was assigned this as summer reading. I found it to be quite boring, while most of the characters are extremely annoying.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byenderknight. April 8, 2015

nice book needs a series!!!

it has a little violence and good role model too and appropriate for mature kids 10 and up.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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