Now more than ever, Cole wants to graduate and leave his small, suffocating town. And everything is going according to plan—until Cole discovers the one secret that could keep him there…forever.
I’m enamored with this book, because I think it told me what I needed, more than what I wanted, to hear. It deals with the pain and frustration that are attached to coming of age, where you must first be disillusioned and then have your world view rebuilt. As Cole goes through this process, I recognized a realization I had come to years ago but had never really put words to, so I left Cole’s life understanding my own a bit better.
Cole, and actually all of the characters in Anywhere But Here, are so difficult sometimes because they really can’t get out of their own way. Cole has a cynical view of his friends, his town, and especially of his family since his mother died. Although, even cynical, Cole’s voice is fresh and his perspective is unique. He sorts through his thoughts with imagined conversations with his mother and sees reality through a documentary lens. In some way, spinning his own story through an artistic form helps him see his world clearly. So while he doesn’t seem to be learning from his mistakes and really keeps making bad choices, I was okay with him because he was turning all those things into something and really pulling us through his process of growing up and building a future.
The cast of characters surrounding Cole are really colorful, but equally frustrating. His ex-girlfriend can’t seem to pull herself together, has some serious issues with communication and has a crazy best friend who you have no choice but to love and hate at the same time. Then there’s Hannah, who also has communication issues and doesn’t seem to know how to demand that Cole treat her with respect. He ditches all of her sneaky efforts to get closer to him and you kind of just want to take her hand and help her walk away from him. And of course, his dad seems to be having a mid-life crisis of the most cringe-worthy kind.
So there’s a lot of understated drama that’s happening. The big things aren’t really discussed and often the focus is just slightly off where it needs to be (which ties beautifully back into the parts where Cole is trying to film a documentary and keeps missing key moments). But what I think is important in this book, or at least what really made it worth something for me, was really demonstrating the way people need each other. Cole is from a small town and wants out (thus the title) and if I can relate to anything, it’s that feeling. I am an anywhere-but-here girl, which is something I grew up thinking was just my small town, but it turns out I just always need to know what else is out there. I’ve read a lot of books with the anywhere-but-here sentiment, and they generally grow into an angry get-me-out-now or a defeated stuck-here-forever tone. This book did something different and it takes that trapped feeling and redraws it as something beautiful and important.
I hadn’t heard much about this book until it crossed my path, but I think it’s one that deserves some attention. It has a strong voice and it really puts a small piece of the world into perspective. I read this story really quickly mostly because the longer I stayed in the story without breaking for real life, the closer I felt to Cole and all the people that make up the web around him. There's depth and meaning in this book that actually doesn't seem to go past the surface when you look too quickly. But I really think it's going to mean something different to everyone who reads it.