Book Review: How Far We’ve Come by Joyce Efia Harmer
How Far We've Come by Joyce Efia Harmer
Published: May 25th 2023 by Simon and Schuster
Rating: ★★★½ (3.5)
Genre: Young Adult // Historical, Time Travel, Sci-Fi
Quick Thoughts: A gut-punch of emotion, full to the brim of poignant words and striking after-thoughts once the last page was turned.
About The Book:
From debut author, Joyce Efia Harmer, comes a groundbreaking YA story of friendship and freedom that crosses continents and centuries, in a timeslip novel exploring the legacy of slavery.
Sometime, me love to dream that me is a human, a proper one, like them white folks is.
Enslaved on a plantation in Barbados, Obah dreams of freedom. As talk of rebellion bubbles up around her in the Big House, she imagines escape. Meeting a strange boy who’s not quite of this world, she decides to put her trust in him. But Jacob is from the twenty-first century. Desperate to give Obah a better life, he takes her back with him. At first it seems like dreams really do come true – until the cracks begin to show and Obah sees that freedom comes at an unimaginable cost . . .
Both hopeful and devastating, this powerful novel about equality, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go introduces an extraordinary new literary voice.
The last time-travel-meets-historical novel that I read was when I was a teenager so, ahem, a few years ago! I was really intrigued by the theme and love reading about time travel, but have never read one quite like this. I had the impression it was going to get right into my heart as well, so I was preparing myself for an emotional read, too.
It’s hard to go too in-depth into what happens in How Far We’ve Come without spoiling major plot points, so rest assured this will be a spoiler-free zone.
Obah can only dream of freedom, of a life that is her own. Enslaved on a Barbados plantation—a large property or piece of land dependent on the labor of enslaved people—she knows nothing of privilege and peace. Only, when there are talks of a rebellion in what they call the Big House, she begins to imagine what that liberty might look like.
In doing so, Obah meets Jacob. He seems strange, out of sorts, as if he’s not from her world. Even so, she puts her faith in him, despite concern of where that might lead. Sure enough, Jacob isn’t from her time at all. He’s from the twenty-first century—and he wants to take her back with him to give her a better life. To Obah, this is otherworldly, a dream come to life. But things aren’t always as they seem, and soon enough things start to fracture, and Obah realises that freedom isn’t as straight-forward as her escape has seemed. Sure, the future is different and better, but those wounds are still there and cannot be ignored and erased. And despite Jacob’s best wishes of bringing her to his time for a better life, time itself isn’t ours to bend—but what does that mean for Obah?
Overall, How Far We’ve Come was a gut-punch of emotion, full to the brim of poignant words and striking after-thoughts once the last page was turned. Joyce does an incredible job of creating distinctive voices and invoking major feelings with her words. Obah was so vivid in my mind. I loved how her character developed over the pages, and how big her heart was. I wasn’t all that sure of Jacob, who ended up growing on me, but his family weren’t favourites for me. I felt quite disconnected from the present-day timeline, enthralled more by the Barbados one where we were rooted as readers, and found the characters of Obah’s time my favourite to read about. Some of the twists were hard to believe or easy to guess, but it was nevertheless powerful—this book is sure to make such a large impact on people. I really think readers will love Obah, just as I did, and root for her belief in future happiness and emancipation from what she had to do to survive, and who she could be when it was over. A very great read indeed.
About The Author
Joyce Efia Harmer was born in Lambeth to Ghanaian parents. She has a BA in English Language and Literature at King’s College, London and now teaches English. In 2016 Joyce was selected as one of six writers to take part in the Megaphone writer’s scheme to support diverse voices in Children’s Literature, and in 2017 she was also a finalist in Penguin’s WriteNow scheme. Joyce lives in London with her husband and two sons. Her debut novel will be published in 2023.
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