Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Title The Distance Between Us
Author Kasie West
Published July 2nd, 2013 by Harper Teen
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased from Chapters, Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Synopsis

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.

“I know he’s asking for my name but I don’t want to give it. The first thing I learned about the rich is that they find the common folk an amusing distraction but would never, ever want anything real. And that’s fine with me. The rich are another type of species that I observe only from a safe distance. I don’t interact with them.”

If there’s one thing that Caymen Meyers knows for certain, it’s that you can’t trust the wealthy. Employed in her mother’s fledgling doll shop in the small beach town in which they reside, Caymen has learned that there are two types of people in this world: ‘The rich and the people who sell things to the rich’. So, when Xander Spence strolls into her mother’s store one afternoon searching for a present for his grandmother, Caymen smells trouble. Despite a rather unfortunate first impression and Caymen’s initial misgivings about Xander’s true intentions, however, the two soon discover that they have more in common than they ever could have imagined possible. Suffocated by their respective parents’ expectations for their future, Caymen and Xander embark on a quest to discover their life’s true passions, all the while spending more and more time together. But as the two draw closer, Caymen is forced to question whether they can ever have a future together when all she can see is the distance between them.

“A lot of people don’t get my humour. My mom calls it dry humour. I think that means ‘not funny’, but it also means I’m the only one who ever knows it’s a joke.”

2013 has certainly been a good year for Kasie West! With the release of both Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us, both of which have been largely well-received, it’s safe to say that West has solidified her spot as a favourite amongst the debut authors whose work was released this year, and after experiencing The Distance Between Us firsthand, I can understand why. While it wasn’t one of my favourites of the numerous contemporaries I’ve read thus far in 2013, West writes with a wit and charm that makes it exceedingly easy to fall in love with her work and which makes her contemporary debut the perfect choice if you’re searching for a quick pick-me-up or a relatively light-hearted novel to rescue you from a discouraging reading slump, as I was when I started this book. Eminently quotable and a whole lot of fun, The Distance Between Us is a refreshing and lively love story in which opposites attract and the road to a happily-ever-after is anything but smooth.

“Note to self: Caymen is very good at sarcasm.”

“If you’re recording notes for an official record, I’d like the word ‘very’ stricken and replaced with ‘exceptionally’.”

In a genre littered with a plethora of largely interchangeable protagonists, Caymen Meyers was like a breath of fresh air. It’s not often that we’re treated to a sarcastic, cynical protagonist with a little bit of bite, and I appreciated that Kasie West took a risk in creating a character that, while not necessarily immediately ‘likable’, was one who was authentic and honest. While I understand that some readers might not warm up to Caymen as easily as I was able to, as someone who often relies on humor and sarcasm as a defense mechanism in difficult situations, I could intimately identify with Caymen on a personal level. That said, Caymen isn’t initially the easiest character to get to know, or grow to like. Her resentment toward the upperclass is bred into the bone like cancer, festering and eating away at her until it poisons not only herself, but her potential relationships with others because of a predisposition to judge them based solely on their socio-economic status. Although she would never admit it, this prejudice acts as a sort of armor, a defense mechanism used to hold others at bay and protect against the crippling humiliation and rejection it soon becomes obvious that Caymen fears most. Estranged from her father, who was born into wealth, after his abandonment upon receiving the news of Caymen’s mother’s pregnancy, Caymen has essentially been programmed from birth to distrust those from a similar background. All that said, as much as I liked Caymen’s spunk and attitude, there were moments when her behaviour bordered on irritating. Her blind prejudice against the wealthy in particular could be extremely grating. While I understood rationally where this impulse sprung from, to be set against someone simply because of the situation into which they were born, something that is entirely out of their control, is patently ridiculous. She summarily dismissed Xander immediately because of the manner in which he was dressed and the corresponding assumptions she made about him and would have missed out on a relationship with him entirely had it not been for his perseverance. While it’s only natural that Caymen be suspicious of Xander’s motives given the disparity between their backgrounds, her continual habit to assume the worst about him was extremely frustrating. While I appreciate the fact that Kasie West took a chance in creating a rather unusual leading lady who was assertive and forthright, there was moments when Caymen’s behaviour felt forced, as though West was going out of her way to emphasize how different and rebellious Caymen truly was. This portrayal bordered on laboured, and at times made me painfully aware that I was reading about a character as opposed to a real person.

“Somehow the guy had managed to climb out of the box full of people I had already labeled off-limits with a permanent marker and he’d become different. And now, much to my irritation, I feel some sort of loyalty to Xander Spence.
I had to change this immediately.”

Heir to his family’s prosperous hotel empire, Xander is a wealthy, privileged boy with an overabundance of confidence who feels trapped by his parent’s expectations and resentful of a future that seems all but laid out before him. Resistant to his legacy and assumed role as a cog in the familial corporate machine, Xander finds a new sense of purpose when he meets Caymen Meyers. Intrigued by the girl for whom his money and background hold no allure, Xander slowly ingratiates himself into Caymen’s life, charmed by her wit and sarcasm. Using his wealth and access to opportunities and social spheres previously inaccessible to Caymen, Xander attempts to help Caymen discover her true passion in life and demonstrate the seemingly endless possibilities for her future, despite her own cynical feelings on the subject. Despite the fact that he makes a rather horrible first impression, it quickly becomes clear that Xander Spence is anything but the moneyed, pretentious, arrogant snob that Caymen presupposes him to be. An unaffected, genuinely kind person who saw past Caymen’s prickly exterior to the sensitive and vulnerable girl within, Xander was a nice, relatively innocuous character who had wonderful chemistry with our protagonist. As much as I genuinely liked Xander, however, I must admit that he wasn’t a particularly memorable character. As unjust as it sounds, I have to wonder whether this was an unavoidable result of creating a protagonist as lively and memorable as Caymen – Xander had a tendency to pale in comparison and at times seemed like little more than a prop used as a means of demonstrating how wonderful Caymen is rather than how interesting he was in his own right. His choice in friends certainly left something to be desired and I think this novel would have greatly benefited from dual narration which would have allowed us a glimpse into his motivation and innermost thoughts. As it stands, because we’re told the story solely from Caymen’s perspective, the reader can’t help but be effected by Caymen’s reservations and doubts regarding Xander’s true intentions. As a result, I often found myself reluctant to trust him or ever truly grow close to him. While I know I’ve said several times that I have a soft spot for nice guys – and I do! – I think there’s a fine line between nice and largely forgettable.

“Caymen?”

“Yes?”

“You look terrified. Does this scare you?”
“More than anything.”

“Why?”
“Because I didn’t bring my mints.”

“And now the real answer…”

“Because I’m afraid that once you catch me, the game’s over.”

If there’s one thing I particularly love in a romantic relationship, it’s banter. From Logan and Veronica in Veronica Mars to Dan and Blair in Gossip Girl and every fictional couple in between, I tend to be most drawn toward couples with the spirited give-and-take and who often seem to toe the fine line between love and hate. It was touching to watch as Caymen slowly opened herself up to the possibility of a relationship with Xander, and while his interest in Caymen was a little less clear, the two undoubtedly had chemistry in spades. That said, I did feel there were aspects of the novel that unnecessarily distracted from Caymen and Xander’s relationship. For example, I couldn’t understand what, if any, purpose Mason’s character served. He could hardly be considered a rival for Caymen’s affections and it felt like an uncalled for addition to what was already a bloated cast of characters. I would have infinitely preferred more time spent with Xander and Caymen as they explored their interests during their ‘Career Days’ instead. These were highlights of the novel for me and more time spent on this sort of interaction as opposed to pointless, aimless scenes spent watching The Crusty Toads (Great band name, though!) perform would have been infinitely preferable.

“And the answer to your question is yes. Yes, I think your father has tried to find you. What father wouldn’t want to know his daughter?”
“The kind that would run away at even the thought of me.” I don’t know why I’m talking about this. There’s a reason I avoid this subject. It feels as though someone has poked every inch of my skin with a needle, leaving me raw and exposed.

“If he had known you he’d have never been able to leave.”

As much as I liked the relationship between Caymen and Xander, one of the biggest highlights of this novel for me was the dynamic between Caymen and her mother. While Caymen is quick to tell the reader that the two have a close relationship, it soon becomes clear that this is anything but the case. This disparity between Caymen’s perception and the reality of the situation was one of the more interesting aspects of the novel and I can only wish had been explored in greater depth. Forced to live in comically tight quarters that leave little opportunity for privacy or personal space, Caymen and her mother are often worlds apart despite being less than a foot away from one another physically. Both withhold the truth and seem to understand little about what the other wants or needs. It would be quite absurd and funny were it not for the fact that I have absolutely no doubt believing that many mothers and daughters face similar issues everyday. One of the most interesting aspects of their relationship was the origin of Caymen’s prejudice against the rich. It was heart-wrenching to watch as Caymen began to recognize that her opinions and beliefs were not necessarily her own, but rather that which arose from her mother’s rather skewed perception and life experience. The moment at which we first learn that our parents are fallible is a difficult time for many – We spend years placing them on a pedestal only to find that even those that seem to have all the answers are simply faking their way through life more often than not. This was one aspect of The Distance Between Us that I thought Kasie West handled admirably well as it prompted some interesting reflection on my part as I read.

“Is that your subtle way of saying you missed me last week?”
“I’ve missed my hot chocolate. I just think of you as the guy who brings it to me. Sometimes I forget your name and call you hot chocolate guy.”

In regards to the writing itself, I found nothing particularly remarkable about it one way or the other. That isn’t to say that it was bad by any stretch of the imagination. At best I would simply classify it as average. Ordinary. Lacking the wit of Sloppy Firsts, the charm of Fangirl, the vivacity of Audrey, Wait!, the beauty of Golden, the raw realism of Something Like Normal, or the poignancy of This Song Will Save Your Life, The Distance Between Us does little to distinguish itself from the plethora of contemporary novels I read on a regular basis. At times a light-hearted romantic comedy and others a tale of parental abandonment and disillusionment, I also detected a certain amount of tonal confusion, almost as though West couldn’t decide which story she wanted to tell most. One of the most frustrating aspects of this novel for me was that the themes I was most interested in seeing examined further, such as Caymen’s grief over her father’s abandonment, were left relatively unexplored. As much as I enjoyed the interplay between Caymen and Xander, there were times when I couldn’t help but wish that the romance had taken a back seat to some of the other, more pressing, issues that were raised throughout the novel.

“I wonder why some people seem to be born knowing what they want to do with their lives and others – mostly me – have no idea.”

Unfortunately, my issues with The Distance Between Us did not begin and end there. One of the biggest problems I encountered with this novel concerned how abruptly the story seems to end. The novel ends mid-conversation between two characters, and I was left frantically flipping through the book and wondering whether or not my copy was missing a few pages as there was a distinct lack of closure. While I didn’t mind that the characters’ fates were left relatively open-ended, I would have preferred an additional ten to twenty pages which would have allowed West to wrap up the novel at a more leisurely pace and allowed for a greater sense of fulfillment. As it stands now, there was a distinct lack of finality that didn’t necessarily feel intentional. I also felt as though the denouement was unnecessarily rushed. After introducing a series of significant plot developments in the final pages of the novel, there are numerous important questions left entirely unanswered at the story’s conclusion. While I won’t delve into these too deeply for fear of spoilers, suffice it to say that West seems to throw everything apart from the kitchen sink into the mix, and I’m a firm believer in the adage of ‘less is more’. Without proper attention paid to each issue in turn, I would have preferred it had West chosen a less convoluted manner with which to follow the climax of the novel. Unfortunately, this troubling lack of closure wasn’t limited to the conclusion, either. There were certain issues that were introduced over the course of the novel that I couldn’t help but wish were examined in greater depth. Caymen’s desire to learn more about her father’s identity is touched upon several times, only to be subsequently abandoned further on in the tale. The reader is left with absolutely no idea as to what Caymen intends to do in the future. Is she still interested in learning her father’s identity? Is she interested in pursuing a relationship with him? What, if any, feelings does Caymen have on the subject? I’m left to conclude that we’ll simply never know, and I found this extremely frustrating as I thought it was one of the more touching aspects of the novel that added to the gravity and depth of what was otherwise a relatively light-hearted story. This, and other sub-plots, felt like unfortunate, missed opportunities for something more.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that bring that special someone back to us in some small way.”

While I was less enthused about this novel than most of my peers, with a plot that seems straight out of John Hughes’ seminal classic, Pretty in Pink, Kasie West’s contemporary debut is sure to delight romance readers everywhere. What can easily be considered one of the feel-good hits of the summer, The Distance Between Us is the perfect choice for those searching for a novel that is light on conflict and tension and heavy on romance and banter. Not unlike my recent experience with Catherine McKenzie’s Spin, while I enjoyed The Distance Between Us well enough in the moment, I fear that it will leave little, if any, lasting impression on me. All that said, I would highly recommend that you read this novel and draw your own conclusions, as my feelings on the subject appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Join Kasie West as she teaches us that while money almost certainly can’t buy happiness, it can provide the basis for a relationship where the sparks fly and the witty repartee never ceases to satisfy.

Overall Rating

Around The Web

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Betty @ Book Rock Betty wrote “I wouldn’t say I was wowed by this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and think most people will!” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Kelly @ Effortlessly Reading wrote “This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I thought that The Distance Between Us was an okay read. Just plain okay. It didn’t impress me, it isn’t one of my favorite books ever, and it wasn’t at all memorable for me.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Debby @ Snuggly Oranges wrote “The Distance Between Us is the perfect light contemporary romance that will lift your spirits and leave you smiling. I’m trying really hard to find a negative thing to say about it, but I’m drawing a blank. I enjoyed every second of this book and loathed when it was over.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

7 responses to “Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West”

  1. Ah, I love your reviews! They’re always so thoughtful!
    I really loved this one, but I have to say it’s probably because I identify more with Caymen–prejudiced and all–more than I should. I did really like seeing the exploration of the world through her eyes. It did annoyed me how often she jumped to conclusions and so often saw the worse in people, though. I also thought the ending was abrupt, though, and if anything in the story had changed, I would have liked to see a more fleshed-out ending.
    Stormy @ Book.Blog.Bake. recently posted…Let’s Talk About GoodreadsMy Profile

  2. Wow, I think this is as long as one of my Essays for when I was at uni. I just love how in detail you get into your reviews.

    I haven’t read this book yet, I was actually quite put off by the cover and I wanted to read a few reviews before I decided to take the plunge and buy. I think I may just leave this to a summer read as i’m not into much heavy romance at the moment and I probably won’t do too well with abrupt endings, but it’s a good heads up to know it would be finished quite sharp.

    Great review 🙂
    Georgie @ What She Reads recently posted…COVER REVEAL: ISAURA #3My Profile

  3. Frasier says:

    I adore this review. Mostly because I loved your tweets while writing this.

    That being said, I haven’t had a chance to read this book, which I’m semi-ashamed about. Mostly because I adored West and Pivot Point. Alas, that pesky TBR list is forever long. But this review makes me want to move it up and see. DO WE AGREE. DO WE DISAGREE?!
    Frasier recently posted…Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie AlenderMy Profile

  4. Yes, I think this is the perfect book to help get out of a reading slump.

    I actually warmed up to Cayman almost immediately. I loved her sense of humor, and even though initially she was quick to judge the rich, I understood that it was something her mom taught her. And also that she was probably going to change her mind throughout the story.

    Glad you enjoyed this, though.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Discussion: Audio Vs. PrintMy Profile

  5. Giselle says:

    I’ve been meaning to grab a copy of this one. I saw some mixed reviews going around but it’s making me even more curious, to be honest. I also didn’t realize this was the same author of Pivot Point before now haha. Pivot Point was pretty good I didn’t love it but it was an enjoyable read. Anyways, great review, chick!
    Giselle recently posted…Book Girls Don’t Cry: Money and BloggingMy Profile

  6. I actually enjoyed this one. It was a very refreshing read for me at the time — maybe that’s why? Was it the best thing I ever read? Not quite. But I enjoyed the sarcastic tone of the MC & the plot was fun to follow, even if it was predictable. Sometimes you need a story like this to cleanse the reading palet — and TDBU did just that for me.

    I liked that you mentioned adding a duel narrative. That would be really interesting! I bet it would add new depth to the story as well. Great suggestion! Also, have you see the news for West’s next contemporary novel? I’m really anticipating this one: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18298225-on-the-fence
    Ginger @ GReads! recently posted…Austin Teen Book Fest 2013My Profile

  7. I really enjoyed this one, but I can completely understand some of the issues you’ve mentioned. I agree that it ended rather abruptly, and I also thought there were a few too many things introduced and somehow quickly resolved in the last few chapters. I think I read this after a few books that I’d been so/so on, and I think I may have enjoyed it more because of that. I particularly loved the banter and was drawn to Caymen’s sarcasm, which are things I sometimes find lacking in YA heroines. Or, if present, the sarcasm is extremely off-putting and comes across as rude instead of just clever or witty.

    I did think it was a great read for summer. And, like you mentioned in the comment on my review of This Is What Happy Looks Like, I think our feelings for the two books were probably similar. It was cute, but not memorable. I think Distance was more memorable for me than it probably was for you, but it’s also probably because of the timing at which I read it and my fondness for the way their romantic relationship developed.

    Great review, Jen!
    Hannah @ So Obsessed With recently posted…You’ve Got Mail!My Profile

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