Nowhere Near You

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Nowhere Near You Book Poster Image
Sick pen pals move on and grow up in charming sequel.

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age 13+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Mortiz uses German phrases in some of his letters. Ollie describes various sights and attractions in Chicago. In art school, kids put on plays and discuss literature. Works mentioned include The Metamorphosis, Glaserne Bienen (The Glass Bees), The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Into the Woods, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and the plays of Shakespeare.


Positive Messages

Storng mesasge about the nurturing power of friendship. Even though romance and friendships can be difficult and sometimes hurtful, the love and support makes them worth it. All the Trying new things can be a worthy challenge. You have to learn how to move on through loss and other problems. You can have a positive effect on the world. Everyone has struggles, even if it doesn't look like it from the outside.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ollie and Moritz are positive role models. They're typical teens, in that they can be focused on their own problems, but they help other people far more than they realize. Both boys are excellent friends to each other. They meet kids who they are wary of at first, but once they give these kids a chance, they become friends. Frau Pruitt and Moritz's dad want the best for him and encourage him in his pursuits. Jess Arana takes Ollie in, gives him much need supported, and encourages him to go to school. Dr. Auburn-Stache is still a conflicted character. He wants the best for the kids in his care, but he doesn't always go about it in the right way.


Not much violence, and far less than in the first book. A boy experiences severely broken fingers. Moritz has flashbacks to a girl trying to drown him when he was little. Max is too pushy sexually with Moritz on more than one occasion, and there are rumors that he has been predatory with younger students in the past. There's an unanswered possibility that Max has laced cookies with pot and slipped students alcohol in order to lower their defenses.



The story has plot lines around romance, dating, and attraction. Some hand-holding, kissing, and mild making out. A visit to a sex shop figures into the plot, but nothing graphic is shown or discussed. Two characters have a sexual encounter, but it's not detailed or described.



Swearing is infrequent and mostly for emphasis. The word "fluff" or "fluffing" is frequently used in place of "f--k" and its variation. Swear words include, "piss," crap," "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "a--hole," "damn," "t--t," "bitch," "God," "Jesus," "buggering," and "bollocks."


Only a few mentions of products for descriptive purposes, including Impala, Fiat, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and 409 cleaning product.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A student has alcohol in his thermos at school. Two boys get drunk at school. One students hands out cookies at school that might have pot in them, without the other kids knowing.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nowhere Near You tells the story of two boys with unusual health issues who become pen pals. In this sequel to Leah Thomas' Because You'll Never Meet Me, Ollie and Mortiz are taking risks and moving forward with their lives after learning some startling things about their early years. This novel is similar in structure to the first book, with the added interest of Ollie and Mortiz meeting a few kids who have similar issues and pasts to theirs. Nowhere Near You will make a lot more sense if you've already read Because You'll Never Meet Me. Like the first book, the story is told in letters between the two boys and the other kids like them. Themes of friendship, growing up, loss, and empathy figure largely in the book. The romance angle is mostly tame, but there is one sexual encounter that isn't described graphically. Characters swear a little, with the word "fluff" often standing in for "f--k."

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Teen, 15 years old Written byHRM1104 July 16, 2018

What's the story?

NOWHERE NEAR YOU is a novel of letters between kids who have unusual physical conditions. This sequel to Because You'll Never Meet Me finds American Ollie Paulot and German Moritz Farber still trading letters, supporting each other, and sharing their hopes, dreams, and fears. Even though they both still struggle with their congenital health issues, Ollie and Moritz are pushing themselves to be less isolated. Ollie leaves the Michigan woods on a trip with his doctor, and Moritz starts a new school. The boys meet other kids from their childhoods who have unusual disorders and powers. While this makes them feel less alone, it also opens their eyes to the serious health risks they may be facing. It doesn't help that their doctor is clearly holding some secrets that Ollie works hard to tease out of him. Ollie and Moritz mature dramatically in this sequel, experiencing the ups and downs of putting your heart on the line -- in romance and in friendship. They also learn that everyone has their struggles and problems, not just those with obvious outward illnesses or deformities The book highlights the importance of friendship, empathy, and pushing yourself to experience new things, no matter how scary it might be.

Is it any good?

In this charming story told in letters, two lonely pen pals push themselves to face their fears and engage in the world. Nowhere Near You picks up where Because You'll Never Meet Me leaves off: Ollie and Moritz are reeling from losses and the discovery of dark secrets about their early years. However, they're no longer letting their isolation control their lives. They take risks and learn how to move forward. Like the first book, this story moves slowly and stalls out in sections. The boys' doctor has some secrets, which is supposed to build tension, but few hints are dropped, and it ends up being more irritating than intriguing.

The boys meet kids who share their unusual background. The new characters add a lot to the story, in that they teach Ollie and Moritz compassion and empathy. In their letters, the differences between the characters leaps off the page. Ollie's still funny, energetic, and outgoing, while Moritz is formal, withdrawn, and dramatic. Their rapport and love for each other is touching. Many of the book's themes -- coming of age, friendship, empathy, loss, isolation, love -- will give readers lots to discuss and think about.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Nowhere Near You deals with conveniences many of us take for granted. For example, Ollie can't be near anything electric and Moritz can't read anything on a screen. What would your life be like if you had to give up computers or social media?


  • Ollie and Moritz are opposites in every way, but they have a deep connection. Do you have friends like that? Do you think different perspectives make friendships more interesting?


  • Do you have a way you like to express yourself, such as writing, drawing, building things, or sports? What about that activity helps you?


Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and friendship stories

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