Monday, August 26, 2013

The Distance Between Us (Kasie West)

The trope is as old as Cinderella, as Bathsheba. Still, readers continue to be fascinated by the rich guy-poor girl romance. Some days I might complain why we keep on falling for this story, but then I'd have to come out and admit that I'm not entirely blameless. [Full disclosure: My longest obsession with this was over Hana Yori Dango, a manga turned anime, more popularly known in Manila as the Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden or as its recent Korean reincarnation Boys Over Flowers. Somebody just gave my high horse a good slap on the behind and it went off running without me.]

But what I enjoyed about Kasie West's The Distance Between Us is that it infused the trope with a needed amount of levity and spirit. I was expecting something akin to Pretty in Pink but I was pleased that I didn't get it. Here, Caymen helps her mother run a struggling doll store that caters to rich collectors. Two things she likes poking fun at are dolls and rich folks. But when Xander Spence walks into her shop, she finds herself striking an unlikely friendship with him. Together, they question labels and explore the boundaries of the world they thought they knew.

As the cover implies, this is a romance. It evolved at a steady pace, which made their relationship extremely believable. Caymen's character -- sassy, snarky, and loyal -- is a breath of fresh air for me. I like how she's sarcastic but not hard. Her insights and her banter with the people around her keeps things from being too predictable. She was one of the reasons I couldn't put this down! Aside from constantly worrying about her mother's shop (which she personally doesn't care too much for), she's candid enough to admit that she doesn't know what to do when she gets to college. While that may not stack up against the more dramatic issues of YA literature, I appreciated its purpose in this story. Xander has all the self-assurance that one would expect from someone as rich as he was. Caymen takes it for arrogance in the beginning, but I really liked how Ms West shows that there was more to him. He is confident without being abrasive, encouraging without being patronizing. The supporting characters, from Caymen's friends to her mom, were also tightly-drawn.

I had a few concerns with the story, but nothing that really took away from my enjoyment. There was a plot twist coming, which Ms West had already primed the reader to expect, but when it came it was unlike what I was thinking that it jarred me. But upon re-reading, I finally picked out the subtle hints that pointed to that direction. They weren't a lot but if I had been sharper during my first read, I might have had less misgivings about the twist. The story also tends to skew deeper into wish-fulfillment territory. Not a bad thing of course, because the drama and the pay-off can be greater, but I wish it had been more consistent. Still, this was more a personal preference than anything. Caymen and Xander really won me over that I was ready to forgive everything. Overall, The Distance Between Us is something I'd heartily recommend to someone looking for a sweet and charming contemporary YA book.

2 comments:

blackplume said...

I enjoy reading this one too. Caymen sarcasm is so fun to read.

dementedchris said...

@blackplume
I know! I like their interactions -- even if Caymen constantly puts Xander down, he's still so determined (in a nice way)!