Seventeen-year-old Owen Griffiths learns to find his own way to a future in science through a friendship with a girl whose life is dedicated to music.
The story unfolds like life, following the course of Owen and Natalie's friendship, in their senior year of high school. Owen narrates, at the end of the year, trying to figure out exactly what the year, and Natalie's friendship, meant to him.
But the story itself is not that important. Owen and Natalie themselves are the heart of the book, and are two of the most human characters I have ever encountered. Owen has never fit in with people, wants to be a scientist, and has trouble telling anyone what he really wants from life. Half of his trouble may be that he isn't quite sure what he wants. Natalie is a musician, who performs and teaches, but she is really a composer. Unlike Owen, she knows what she wants from life, and is following a careful plan to reach her goals. Of course, neither is really that simple; no real person can be summed up in two sentences, and neither can Owen and Natalie.
"Very Far Away from Anywhere Else" is a book which is easier to read than to explain, and any summary will lose the parts of the book that make it really worthwhile. If I could sum up the book for you, I doubt I would love it enough to reread it at least once a year. Let me close, then, by telling you how much I love this book. I own hundreds of books, and love at least half of them. Of all those books, this is the only one I brought to college this year. This is the one I take on all my trips. This is the one I read whenever I start to feel my life is pointless. This is the one that is dangerously close to falling apart, just because I read it so much.
Buy this. Read it. Trust me.
This is a beautiful, heartfelt book about the friendship between two high school outsiders. Owen and Natalie are vivid, three-dimensional characters, and their conflicts with family, society, and each other are both real and balanced: parents and teachers aren't villains, nor are Owen and Natalie petulant, demanding kids. LeGuin's themes of individuality vs. societal pressures and the conflict between friendship and love are deep and written into the structure of the book rather than tacked on as lectures. A witty and very moving story.