After Ollie’s mother died, he left home with Dr. Auburn-Stache to travel the United States meeting other kids with bizarre abilities resulting from lab experiments. In letters to Moritz, the German boy with no eyes who has become his best friend, Ollie relates the journey. He meets a boy with bones so brittle they snap like chalk, and a girl who removes her heart when her feelings become too intense. Inspired by Ollie’s cross-country adventure, Moritz makes a journey of his own, joining a prestigious school where he meets a girl with two mouths. Then a terrible discovery leaves eternally optimistic Ollie reeling, and a horrible mistake propels Moritz back into isolation. But the unusual group faces a bigger risk, one that can’t be tackled unless both boys face the very thing they fear most.
Nowhere Near You sat on my bedside table for a crazy amount of time before I finally faced my own fear and picked it up. I loved Because You’ll Never Meet Me, the beginning of Ollie and Moritz’s story, so much that I worried about reading more. Apparently I’m super susceptible to this kind of sequel-pressure, because I worry about this sort of thing a lot.
That said, once I started reading, I felt like I was back in the story world I loved so much in the first book. I love Ollie’s upbeat, indomitable voice—he’s like a Labrador puppy, leaping and bounding all over the place and convinced the world is a fantastic, friendly place. But I also love Moritz’s buttoned-up, melancholy tone. I want a Fieke in my life. She’s the kind of prickly but protective friend that every sensitive person needs, and she definitely added some punch to Moritz’s letters. Klaus was another favorite of mine. His quiet, devoted friendship won me over right away.
But I think one of the unsung heroes of the story has to be Moritz’s dad. I loved Moritz’s description of his dad being a man of few words, so that when he spoke, each word had weight because it was obviously carefully considered. His character bears out that description, too. Even though he’s not in the story much, I liked him and it was obvious that he meant a great deal to Moritz and had a huge impact on his life.
In terms of plot, this was always going to be a story which required a serious willingness to suspend disbelief as so many characters have bizarre traits and abilities. I liked that Leah Thomas used this story to explore Moritz’s lack of sight beyond his supernatural ability to compensate via echolocation. At one point illness robs Moritz of his ability and reminds him how fragile he is and how dependent he is on his hearing for both vision and sound.
If you haven’t read Because You’ll Never Meet Me, you need to start with that one first. You could probably follow a great deal of the story without having read it, but you’ll be on the outside of a lot of inside jokes between Ollie and Moritz, and seriously. It’s really good. So there’s that, too.
Moritz, who lives in Germany, was born with no eyes. He can “see” using echolocation, but illness interferes with his ability to hear and he can’t discern color, which becomes a problem in school.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.
Boy/boy kissing. One brief, vague comment about touching and an insinuation that the boys have had sex. Moritz repeatedly tells Ollie that he loves him.
An accident involving a school bus injures some kids. A girl has the ability to remove her heart from her chest in a non-gory way. Her heart sits in a pocket in her chest and is completely enclosed, so not bloody or anything when she takes it out. At one point she threatens to put it into a blender (to commit suicide).
A boy from school gives Moritz alcohol to drink.