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Very Far Away from Anywhere Else

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  3,144 ratings  ·  397 reviews
Owen is seventeen and smart. He knows what he wants to do with his life. But then he meets Natalie and he realizes he doesn't know anything much at all.

A slender, realistic story of a young man's coming of age, Very Far Away from Anywhere Else is one of the most inspiring novels Ursula K. Le Guin has ever published.
Paperback, 133 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Clarion Books (first published July 1st 1976)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  3,144 ratings  ·  397 reviews

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Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, fiction
This is, I'm sure of it, a book that not everyone is going to like and, nonetheless, it is a good book.

That said, I wouldn't go enthusiastically recommending it to every teen around. Even adult-wise, I would leave my recommendation for those who like Le Guin's style and would be willing to overlook some of its, for lack of a better word, old-timey feeling.

Written in 1976 when YA was absolutely not a thing, this is, however the quintessential YA novel. A book about struggling to understand who we
I always expect the best from Ursula Le Guin but considering story of this book is set roughly 50 years ago half the world away I didn't expect it to be so relatable.

No big WOW moments or plot twists just realistic and relatable coming of age story written in Le Guin's beautiful prose.
Nov 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: I is for intellectual
Recommended to Mariel by: D is for decide
Have you ever walked down an empty street at night and not be able to help noticing the bright lights inside of the warm houses? It's a cliche but people look sad, or happy, or anything else there is to feel. It's that feeling of knowing that people are feeling something and it's got nothing whatsoever to do with you. You're outside, alone, and no one notices you, or your freaking cute dog. Other times are the best. Listening to music on headphones and getting goosebumps from favorite songs. Eve ...more
Cheryl Klein
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
And this is my favorite YA novel ever -- when it was out of print, I went to the New York Public Library and copied every page of it just so I'd have a copy for myself. There's very little story to it, and it's not for everyone, certainly, but if you were a "sensitive" teenager who loved reading and thinking and felt a little out of step with everyone else, THIS IS THE BOOK. It's criminally underknown. ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: coming-of-age
"If you'd like a story about how I won my basketball letter and achieved fame, love, and fortune, don't read this. I don't know what I achieved in the six months I'm going to tell you about. I achieved something, all right, but I think it may take me the rest of my life to find out what."

So begins this book by an author known for her intelligent adult science fiction novels and equally intelligent fantasy novels for young adults. But Ursula Le Guin has also written a few contemporary young adult
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
The emotional experiences described in this book rang poignantly true and familiar even if a few superficial details didn't. I have great admiration for the author's boldness and skill in articulating the "fog" of teenage psychological turnover without being vague, indirect, or simplifying it out of recognition. I didn't read this when I was a teenager, and I'm not sure what it would have meant to me then, because I hadn't yet really had the experiences it describes. Reading it now, I was able t ...more
Sara J. (kefuwa)
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a total cover buy (window shopping for vintage covers on betterworldbooks because I am miles away from a used books store). This was more or less on point with my approximation of what a YA romance coming from Ms Le Guin would read like. Poignant, wistful and really spoke to the heart (mine at least). And (in K. Le Guin fashion) somehow also manages to touch on some pretty hefty social issues right alongside those growing pain issues without any weight throwing whatsoever and witho ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The scary thing about this story is the fact that Owen is a 17-year-old teenager from a time before I was even born and I perfectly understand his thought process; I can relate to him completely, despite of our age difference and the general time difference. It surely says something about this book, the fact that I found myself in it. Or it says something about me...or both. But whether that is a good thing or not, I'm still not quite sure.

"We talked about life....And the sea was there, forty f
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, I subscribed to a literary magazine called Cicada that mixed realism and genre, stories by teenage authors with stories by professionals. (It's still in print, apparently. Good for it.) Every two months issues appeared on my doorstep, introducing me to new works by Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Naomi Shihab Nye. I didn't love everything they printed, but I loved a lot of it--and I fell particularly hard and deep for "Very Far Away from Anywhere Else," whic ...more
A children's literature professor recommended this book in a class I took years ago, and I wish I had read it then. At first, I compared it somewhat unfavorably to newer YA novels I've read, perhaps because the plot starts out relatively slowly. I once took a personality test that determines whether you are a nerd, geek, or dork, and while I'm not going to disclose my results, I'm pretty sure Owen, the protagonist, would have gotten all of the above. And back in the seventies, before nerd pride ...more
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Very Far Away From Anywhere Else is written by Ursula K. LeGuin, best known for her fantasy/sci-fi books.

But she also writes other material, and this slight novel (a bare 87 pages, more of a novella) is really good. I first read it in 1981, 27 years ago. But time has not diminished this story of a young man who feels different that other high schoolers, and feels quite alone. He finds a friend in a headstrong young woman...someone he really feels himself with. But by his actions, he messes up th
Feb 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
I thought I might have read this already, but picked it up in the Amnesty bookshop anyway. Turns out I had. Very dated and remarkably heavy-handed message for the woman who wrote so eloquently that books should be about story, not message. But it's a good message and there's a lot to like in the book despite the preaching. Its being so short helps enormously too! ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ursula Le Guin has a knack for writing books and having their themes rediscovered (in someone else's hands) 30 years later. Example - Earthsea series - Harry Potter; this book - Eleanor and Park. This book does an amazing job of highlighting the expectation and frustration that young adults feel - caught between their dreams, their parents' expectations and the social norms of what they "should do". It's striking to me that Le Guin can write across so many genres - Science Fiction, Fantasy, Youn ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it liked it
I love Ursula Le Guin's writing, usually. Maybe I came to this one a bit too late: maybe it would have said a lot more to me when I was a teenager myself. I think she's got the type of teenagers she's going for down well: so terribly serious about themselves and their relationships and their careers, close to flying the nest but not ready yet.

The problem, I think, was that even though she wrote in first person, her prose always has a slightly distant quality. Often, it works, but here, I expecte
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
The characters – Natalie and Owen, the narrator – are a bit. . .incredible. Well, not really incredible. Natalie’s focused in a way that most teenagers aren’t, and Owen – Owen’s very, very smart and very, very stupid.
The story is very beautiful and almost tragic, but not quite. Le Guin captures the confusion and uncertainty of adolescence but the story lacks intensity. It’s told with too much detachment. Le Guin develops this voice of detachment in many of her stories with great effect, but with
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did absolutely jot like this. It didn't make sense to me, I don't what happened when I read it, but I really didn't like it. ...more
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
For such a little book, it was a really heavy read. Owen had a lot going on in his head, but I feel like the conclusion came on too suddenly and too easily solved. Also, why was he recording things? Why was he going to type it all up? I feel like I get the gist of what he was going to do, but if he decided not to, where was that moment where he's stopped recording?

Very quotable and I could really see the ideologies and diction of the 70's in there.

Happy reading!
Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it
First of all: the cover on this edition is total bullshit. LeGuin goes out of her way to describe the main character as having messy hair and Natalie as err "stocky." The two kids on the cover look straight out of the O.C., which is exactly not the kind of people the book is about.

The problem I have with this story is that it doesn't feel like a teenage boy speaking (at one point, he claims that he is speaking the text into a tape recorder and then typing it out), it feels like an older woman's
Oct 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, young-adult, fiction
I don't read a lot of regular fiction, but this book appealed to me for several reasons:

1) It's by Ursula K. Le Guin.

2) It's super short.

3) It was a discard from the library I used to visit when I was a kid, the one where my grandmother volunteered as a front desk person for 20 years.

4) I needed something the complete opposite of a depressing vampire/zombie post-apocalyptic story.

It was definitely a super-quick read. I liked Owen and Natalie, and was happy to watch their friendship develop. The
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I was very lukewarm on the book for the first 90 pages. An easy read yet distant and unfamiliar. You get a good sense of main character's struggles and personality but I didn't feel a true connection between him and Natalie. The last 40 pages really picked up nicely and made you stop and think about purpose, priorities and your place in the real world. Or in the world of Thorn. One young mans confusion on the ability to live life and life's purpose. Especially since he's only been listening to t ...more
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
When I first read this book, in high school, I absolutely loved it. I know I felt like it changed my life. Now, from the distance of something like 30 years, I can't remember what it was that was so great about it. But, I trust myself that if I thought it changed my ilfe, it probably did. It's a good enough book, a good story. Definitely for teenagers and other young people. :-) ...more
Julie G
This is a super quick read and a coming-of-age novel. It's a bit dated, and lacks depth, but it has several memorable lines and could be a good read for intellectually advanced teenagers dealing with social isolation. ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is really beautiful - a novella more than a full novel, but so clean in how it describes the messiness of being a teenager who doesn't fit. Le Guin is just as exacting and loving toward modern-day human Earth teenagers as she is to any of her fictional species. ...more
Chris Browning
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2021
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lilly Hancock
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I though this book was okay, but not great. I liked it and enjoyed it enough to finish it, but I found that some of it just used confusing wording and was outdated. I don't mind that is was dated, but some of the things that happen seem a little unrealistic. I would give it 3/5 stars. Nevertheless, it was a sweet story and a quick read. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, because it is a love story of sorts. I would also recommend it to people who like realistic fiction, bec ...more
Marya DeVoto
Feb 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2022
Ursula Le Guin was a genius, and this novel isn't anywhere near the top of her game. It has some clunky bits, and a point of view on humans and conformity that comes off cliché and isn't the best expression of one of her recurring themes: the relationships between exceptional people and the societies they have to live in, which inevitably include a lot of people on a different wavelength.

That said, this is a beautiful, immersive story that I loved as a teenager and still love now. It's very eloq
Apr 14, 2017 added it
I really enjoyed this book and here's why I added it to favorites:
-it's a ya romance which I actually liked for the first time after John Green
-it's by Ursula K. le Guin who is an amazing author
-it's not her usual genre which makes it even more crazy by how realistic the characters were
-it's an easy, quick read
-and in the end it's a page turner which I enjoy during the school year.
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I think this tiny novella has sat on a bookshelf and moved with me for decades. This evening it fell off the shelf and asked to be read.

I'm some ways it is very mid70s... A $3k new car! And in other ways it us timeless. How do we figure out who we are and how do we find our way in the world. 17 is a long way in my past but I can still remember being lost and LeGuin captures that beautifully.
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

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