Always Once Upon a Time in New York City: A Long Way From You by Gwendolyn Heasley

In Gwendolyn Heasley’s companion to Where I Belong, small-town Texan teen Kitsy Kidd takes center stage. When Kitsy is accepted into a prestigious summer art program, her friend Corrinne’s family offers to pay for her course and allow her to stay in their Manhattan apartment. Kitsy has always dreamed of being an artist. but she can only dream so big while stuck in a town the size of a NYC block (but with not even half as much in it).

Kitsy leaves her family behind and takes off on a summer that is, for once, all about her. While finally having the opportunity to take her art seriously, Kitsy must also learn to take herself and her ambitions seriously. A summer of museums and freedom and other artists forces Kitsy to consider if what she wants from life might be more than Broken Spoke can offer, or if the best art comes from the places you know most intimately. Maybe it’s true that you can’t go home again, but is Kitsy really ready to make it in NY?

Though Heasley’s newest book, A Long Way From You, is a companion novel, it does not require that you have read Where I Belong. There is plenty of back story woven in to hit the ground running with this book, and I ultimately enjoyed this novel even more than its predecessor.

A Long Way From You is a feel-good story with a charming narrator and atmospheric setting. Kitsy Kidd’s enthusiasm is infectious. Seeing the world through the lens of her naivete when she arrives in NY is refreshing, as is watching her character grow like a fish relocated to a very big pond. Kitsy is just delightful, and her Texan phrases and sense of humor made me giggle out loud repeatedly as I was reading. (And giggling is not something I do often.)

The setting of A Long Way From You featured prominently in the story. NYC is a classic location for coming into your own, a location perfect for this tale of self-discovery. Kitsy’s early attempts to navigate the city on her own were all too relatable for me, and I couldn’t help but laugh when Kitsy accidentally took the subway into NJ and was beside herself trying to figure out how she ended up in an entirely different state. Plus, the NYC setting provided the opportunity for me to vicariously visit some of my favorite museums with Kitsy, which was a real treat.

Like many of my favorite stories, I appreciated that the romance in A Long Way From You is not about losing yourself in someone else, but about loving yourself enough to be a little bit selfish. Loving yourself enough to strike out on your own to pursue your dreams, even if that means leaving some people behind. Despite its cover, this is not so much a love story between a boy and a girl as it is between a girl and a city, her dreams, and herself.

From the setting to the art references to the upbeat and adorable Kitsy Kidd, A Long Way From You is a fabulous summer read. I couldn’t have asked for a better NYC tour guide than Kitsy, and I’ve never enjoyed NYC in the summer so much as I did from my air-conditioned bedroom.

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