Review of How Far We Go and How Fast

How Far We Go and How Fast by [Decter, Nora]


How Far We Go and How Fast

Nora Decter

Orca Books

September 24, 2018

Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Jolene, named after the girl in the Dolly Parton song, is from a long line of lowlifes, but at least they’re musical lowlifes. Her mother is a tanning-salon manager who believes she can channel her karaoke habit into a professional singing career. Jolene’s dad, a failed bass player, has gone back to the family demolition business and lives by the company motto: “We do not build things; we only tear them down.” But Jolene and her big brother, Matt, are true musicians, writing songs together that make everything Jo hates about their lives matter less.
When Matt up and leaves in the middle of the night, Jo loses her only friend, her support system and the one person who made her feel cool. As it becomes clear that Matt is never coming back, Jo must use music to navigate her loss.


Honestly, when I read the blurb, I wasn’t expecting the novel I ended up reading. Nora Decter’s How Far We Go and How Fast (although the title should have given me a hint) is an absorbing novel of a 16-year old girl, Jolene, who has managed to survive her dysfunctional household thanks to the support of her older brother, Matt, and passion for the music they share. When he leaves, she flounders, trying to navigate the waters of feeling abandoned and lost.

In Decter’s skillful writing, the reader is nonchalantly following a path of expectation. Almost midway through the novel, I realized that I’d been following the wrong path and frankly I didn’t want to put the book down, although I was obligated to finish another ahead of it, and had to set it aside. As soon as I could, I grabbed the book and devoured the remainder.

Jo’s exploration is like following a nightmare, the cold, the gray, the isolation. While she had once been like everyone else, an accomplished swimmer, a good student, she now is on the periphery, feeling like she will never be like everyone else, that she is not a good person, that it’s all somehow lost to her.

Decter hands the reader clues. Subtle clues.

By the end, I was crying with Jo. To offer more would be to spoil the story for you. Suffice to say, if you’re a fan of Gayle Forman, Jandy Nelson, or Jessi Kirby, you might want to read How Far We Go and How Fast.

I won an ARC from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

rating: 4-and-a-half

4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies


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