A Very Long Way from Anywhere Else by Ursula Le Guin is a short novella at just 76 pages and would nowadays be described as YA. It’s a coming of age tale I suppose. Unusually for Le Guin it’s contemporary, she more usually wrote SF and Fantasy books.
Owen is a bright teenager, an only child who enjoys studying, particularly sciences and mathematics, so he’s further ahead at school than most in his year and isn’t really that interested in making friends as he has nothing in common with his classmates. He recognises that he’s an introvert and is quite happy about that. He’s planning to go to an out of state college, maybe to Princeton or MIT, but his parents have different plans for him. They assume he will go to the rather mediocre local state college – just as they did. Owen doesn’t bother to argue with them about it though.
On his 17th birthday they give him a brand new car, but Owen hadn’t wanted a car, that car only represents what could have been an entire years’ living expenses for him when he leaves home to study. Imagine his father’s disappointment with this son who doesn’t want a new car!
A chance meeting with a girl on the bus who is at his school widens Owen’s world somewhat. Natalie is a talented musician who has ambitions to become a composer, particularly as there are no female composers, well none that are known and successful, she plans to change that in the future.
A close friendship and budding romance goes off the rails as modern life seems to put pressure on things to move faster than either of them are really prepared for.
It was an enjoyable if very brief read. Owen is amazed to discover that unknown to him he has had a lot in common with the Brontes as in the past he had also constructed a fictional country of his own called Thorn, it’s a place where he could be in control I suppose. He didn’t write stories about it, but drew maps and wrote about the flora and fauna of his fictional country, then he wrote its history. Natalie loves the idea and decides to write some music for Thorn.
The opening paragraph is:
If you’d like a story about how I won my basketball colours and achieved fame, love and fortune, don’t read this. I don’t know what I achieved in the six months that I’m going to tell you about. I achieved something all right, but I think it might take me the rest of my life to find out what.