There are a lot of reasons to love a good book – gripping plot, incredible setting, swoon-worthy romance or heart-pounding action, etc. etc. But one of the biggest reasons I end up falling for a book is because it features a really great character or characters. “Really great” doesn’t always mean someone I’d want to be friends with, or even someone particularly good or kind or admirable. It’s a character that feels real, that I care about, and that I can’t wait to keep reading about. Every now and then, I come across a character who just jumps off the page at me – and I think it’s only fair to share that with you in a “Great Character Alert!”
For the first edition of the Alert, I want to talk about Sophie Winters from Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Sophie is one of those characters who I’m really not sure I would want to be friends with, and while she is admirable in many ways, she also has plenty of problematic qualities. But those are just part of what make her such an interesting character. To give you an idea of the context for her character and the plot of Far From You, this is the description of the book from Amazon:
“Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.
The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.
The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.
After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.”
I’ve never read a book from the perspective of a recovering addict, so that alone makes Sophie a fascinating character to me. Through flashbacks, readers can see her addiction as it develops in the wake of her accident, and in the parts of the book set in the present, how she still struggles despite months of being clean.
Sophie is angry and bitter about so many things – about Mina, about everybody assuming she relapsed, about her accident. She is also angry at a lot of people – her parents, Mina’s boyfriend, and even Mina herself. I love that the reader isn’t sheltered from the nastier emotions that can go with grief and loss. Sophie’s mourning isn’t pretty, it isn’t a smooth road, and it doesn’t always move forward without hurting those around her.
But there’s a lot to admire about Sophie too. She is determined and tenacious – first about beating her addiction, then about hunting down the truth about Mina’s murder. She cares for other people, and struggles to do what’s best not just for herself, but for those around her. Despite her anger at many people in her life, she also feels compassion. She never blames the driver from her car accident, despite her permanent injuries, she remembers that her parents love her even when she’s angry at them, she understands why Mina’s family would hate her.
No discussion of Sophie would be complete without talking about her relationship to Mina. In the flashbacks, we get to know Mina almost as well as Sophie, and I could have written just as much about how great a character Mina is as I did about Sophie. And their relationship with each other is fascinating – they are really attached and really love each other, but at the same time, they are each holding something back from their friendship. They can bring out the best or the worst in each other, depending on the circumstances, because they know each other so well and care about each other so much. Being hurt by Mina drives Sophie deeper into her addiction, but in the end it is Mina who convinces Sophie to get clean too. Without Mina, Sophie wouldn’t be the person readers see.
Sophie is a complicated, fascinating character, and it was her as much as the mystery in Far From You that kept me glued to the page. So if, like me, you’re drawn in by great characters, I highly recommend checking out Far From You.