Now that Rowan's pursuing her art and getting her chance at an education, five hundred miles separates her from Jesse and the ranch. Their summer romance was a slow build to a virtual whirlwind, but surviving the distance isn't easy for anyone, especially two people with such different outlooks on and goals in life. They seemed perfect for each other before, but now that they're back to the real world, Jesse and Rowan are starting to experience cracks in their relationship, from self-doubt to other people trying to undermine everything, and whether or not they can weather the storm remains to be seen.
But... I'm not sure if I was so into the previous book that I was blind to the errors or if this book just had someone less knowledgeable in charge of the copy editing, but there were some odd editing problems in this book. It was kind of like someone consulted a list of commonly mispronounced or misused words and phrases and decided to hide them throughout the book like unwelcome Easter eggs. For instance, there was a mention of unchartered waters and later unchartered territory — when the correct word is uncharted, as in unmapped and unfamiliar. I could make a whole list of these types of problems throughout the book, but I'd probably just bore you to death. Suffice it to say, the language butchering was pretty distracting, and a decent editor probably would have made all the difference in the world.
The Verdict: While it's a great story, I think I would have been happier without this second look at Jesse and Rowan. I know that sounds like a giant negative, but it's not really a reflection of the writing or the story itself. It's simply that with Jesse and Rowan finally together and happy at the end of the first book, I knew that this second book about them would either be boring as hell or have some big conflict and probably a lot more angst. Of course, it was the latter. After an almost perfect ending in book 1 – almost because Rowan left for school right there at the end — this book had lots of missing each other, followed by some general insecurities and general obliviousness, and then some secret keeping and a whole hell of a lot of dark. And I liked my Jesse more when he was the happy-go-lucky sunshine variety.
I guess a lot of what these two went through in Near and Far is pretty realistic. While their feelings for each other certainly didn't change, their lives continued forward more or less without each other. And of course, because rare is the outsider who believes a long-distance relationship will last, some of those non-believers moved in on both of them. But instead of following the standard romance novel formula — you know the one, where the girl swears the other guy is just a friend, and he's all rainbows and puppies around her while he's a conniving, manipulative schemer showing his true colors to her boyfriend… Anyhow, this story took a fresher (and more realistic, I think) approach.
Rowan called her third wheel out on his jerkiness, even though she didn't fully realize his intentions. And Jesse was uncomfortable with his stalker, but he was so in love with Rowan that he was blind to said stalker's intentions. It was an interesting and welcome change from what I usually read, and that bit of realism went a long way toward the believability of both the characters and their story.
As I said, I sort of wish I'd been left with the happily ever after of the first book without taking this road through insecurities, angst, and a walk through Jesse's awful past, but that's just me wanting to live in fantasy-land for a little longer. It was nice seeing Garth and Jesse's friendship start to mend, and I even fell a little more in love with Jesse's mother. The end was a little rushed, and going from pretty much broken up to forever seemed to skip a few steps, but the story was still interesting, the overall plot was sound, and the problems stewing in the characters' heads were certainly true to life.