Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Getting Somewhere by Beth Neff

Getting Somewhere by Beth Neff
Reviewed by Maggie: April 27, 2012
Published January 19, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

Every once in a while, to prove that Goodreads isn't the boss of me, I'll read a book that none of my friends have read or reviewed. (Meanwhile, Goodreads is all, Step back three paces. Turn around.) I can't remember how I first came across Getting Somewhere, but I remember that cover. I mean, just look at it! And the simple tagline: "Four girls. A million secrets." Count me in.

Getting Somewhere is about four strangers picked to live on a farm and have their lives monitored. To find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real...
The Real World: Rural Michigan!

Lauren, Sarah, Jenna, and Cassie are average teenage girls, except that they are all in juvenile detention for various crimes. They get picked for a new rehabilitation program where they will be sent to a farm in the middle of nowhere to live, work, and get counseling. The book begins with Jenna getting off the bus in Hicksville, where she is greeted by Ellie, Grace, and Donna, the three women who run the farm.

Listen, I have no problem reading a book with seven characters of the same race and gender. But, unless their names are Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Doc, I'm going to have a tough time remembering them and telling them apart. This is both a positive and negative attribute of the book -- I loved that Neff refused to make her characters easily identifiable stereotypes for simplicity's sake, but it lessens the impact of the story when I can't remember why a detail is important to a certain character, or even who the character is at first. Donna? Sorry, girl. I kept forgetting who you were. For the record, she's the cook at the farm.

Another issue that I had, that also contributed to some disconnect with the characters, was that the story is told in the 3rd person present tense.
"Sarah thinks Ellie had better watch out for poisoned apples."

I'm making it sound like I didn't like this novel, and that's not true at all. In fact, I ended up buying the Kindle edition after a few chapters because I had so many notes scrawled on various scraps of paper. This book is gorgeously written. Neff draws pictures in my mind with her words. Take this line:
"Sarah shakes her head hard to dislodge the image, tries to listen to Donna's story, but her mind is like a cracked plate, too damaged to hold the contents."
I also liked the idea behind the prison farm and the book itself -- going back to basics and working the land, then working on yourself. At first we see the girls struggling to adapt as they learn basic farm skills. Then we gradually start to see the different reasons the girls ended up where they are, and the various issues holding them back. This isn't an action packed story, but rather a slow burn. The heat turns up slowly as we learn more about the characters until it erupts and the girls learn not everything can be undone. This is an ambitious, challenging, and ultimately rewarding book by debut author Beth Neff.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.


  1. Maggie, your reviews never fail to make me laugh out loud! I love it.

    I've fallen in a bit in love with the cover of this one too :)

  2. Third person present tense always delivers major disconnect for me too. Only certain people (ie, Melina Marchetta in The Piper's Son) can ever pull that one off for me. I love it when books I've never heard of before pop up in my feed! Great review today, Maggie.

    1. Thanks, Catie. I'm excited to try Catherynne M. Valente!

  3. This sounds pretty similar to The Girls of No Return except there it is an entire camp of juvenile delinquents and instead of farming, they are learning about life in the woods. I think you'd probably rate it about the same, anyway. And I cracked up at the facebook status part because it reminded me of that part in Easy A when Noel from Wings says that he saw that, "Roman is having an OK day, and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station" on Facebook:) That Roman, he's incorrigible!

    I can totally hear Cersei's voice in my head when I look at that gif. The other day, I was in the car with my mom and she said, "Somebody needs to murder that king. He's such a little asshole" and I couldn't stop laughing. Oh, Joffrey, you douchebag, you.

    Hey, what are the chances that I could borrow Love-Shy if I promise to read it in one day and return it quickly? If it is signed or you want to keep it in pristine condition, that's totally okay:) Just wondering!

    1. Your mom watches Game of Thrones?? That's awesome! Do the discussions ever get awkward? "The Shadow Baby? Oh, like your birth was so easy!" Then, you know, the light treason and incest, etc.

      I sent a message through The Readventurer contact form. Email me!

  4. Oh, God, the idea of using a farm as a rehabilitation center is dreadful! I promise I'll be good. Just don't make me go near any cows, pretty please.
    I rarely enjoy stories in 3rd person present tense, and I think one written in the way that you described would be either irritating or downright hilarious, I'm not sure which.
    Of course your review was hilarious as always, but don't kid yourself. GoodReads is the boss of us all.

    1. Hee, Maja. I'd love to see you on a farm! I'll be watching via Skype because wide open spaces make me nervous. Grassy field? Some people see it as bucolic countryside. I see it as possible serial killer dumping ground.

  5. Oh the third person present tense would get on my nerves too! But this book sounds interesting enough that I may have to check it out and the cover is gorgeous! Great review Maggie! :)


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