Author: Kasie West
Genre: YA contemporary, romance
Publication Date: July 2, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.
So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.
She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.
☆: 4/5 stars – a really fun contemporary that’ll still smack you right in the feels!
Review: I read West’s debut, “Pivot Point”, earlier this year and absolutely loved it, so I was curious to see how she’d write contemporary. I usually don’t do too well with contemporaries in general, so I was hoping West would write something that I could enjoy. And the good news is that she did! “The Distance Between Us”, while predictable sometimes throughout the story, is a really fun summer read that made contemporary fun for me again. If you’re looking for some light, fluffy snark with some serious tough stuff issues lurking in the background, “Distance Between Us” is definitely one book you want to try out!
In terms of worldbuilding, West’s clever method of shrinking her world down to the doll shop (because aside from a few other places, everything happens there), she made it easier to build a better, sturdier world for her characters. The characters also help build the world, which was good – not all authors can do both the shrinking of where things take place plus using their characters to build their world, so I was more or less pretty satisfied with that. You get this atmosphere of things in Caymen’s life are slowly snowballing to ruin, and she uses her sarcasm to protect herself from what may be coming down the line in terms of how the doll shop will stay afloat, much less go to college. There’s a lurking sense of “oh my god what am I going to do?” not only with Caymen, but with the general main cast in this story all around, but it’s mostly kept in the background with lighter, fluffier humor until it’s brought out when needed. That’s a good tactic, and I’m glad West did it that way.
The love interest: I’m not usually into the whole rich boy/poor girl romance thing (or vice-versa), but West kept it fresh with Caymen’s dry humor and general love of messing with people’s heads. While there are some genuine John Hughes moments towards the end (more on how I feel about the ending in a bit) – and note, I’m generally not a huge Hughes fan – they seem to work alongside Caymen’s caustic attitude and the general way she handles the ridiculously unfair role she’s been given as so many single-parented children are – that of playing, on occasion (and pretty frequently, I might add), parent to the actual parent. The role reversal makes for a different personality, and I’m glad that was thrown in there with the rest of Caymen’s traits, otherwise I think this might have been yet another rich boy/poor girl contemp story. Caymen is what makes the book work in general, but she especially makes the romance work. She keeps Xander on his game and constantly on his toes, and I love it when a female MC can do that in the romance area.
What West needed to work on the most: I felt like there was a lot of telling in this one (I read an ARC, so I’m hoping that got one more smooth copy edit before going to press) over showing, which felt odd when you compare it to “Pivot Point” (which was pretty awesome in the sensory imagery/language department). I was a bit let down there, but I’m hoping the final version had those bits fixed.
I have to say, once again, West’s strongest area is her characters – specifically her MCs. Caymen is a girl I’d totally love to have as a bff, even with her flaws. She’s awesome, yet she’s real, believable, and…oh I can’t even, you guys just have to explore her transformational journey by yourselves with this book. Just like with “Pivot Point”, the MC is West’s best part of her book, and that was nice to see that it wasn’t just a one-time thing. She also grew in the main cast development area, which was a little weak in “Pivot Point”, but way stronger here. And I love it when I can see authors grow that way.
Finally, the ending. This is where I had the largest issue with things – there’s definitely a deus-ex-machina going on in terms of how things are wrapped up in the end – to the point where it feels more than a little out of the realm of reason for a contemporary, non-paranormal book. It brought my enjoyment down, even if I did get the warm-ish fuzzies in those last pages. It felt too neatly wrapped up, and in a pretty outlandish way. While I can say I praise West from attempting a HEA the way she did, I can’t really say that it worked for me as a believable ending if she was writing solid contemp and not magical realism (because there’s definitely a Cinderella moment in there).
Final verdict? If you’re like me and you’re squeamish about YA contemps, I think you’ll find “The Distance Between Us” a fun novel with some darker issues at its core – definitely fluffy contemp with a bite. It’s out now from HarperTeen in North America so give it a try when you get the chance!