Book Club Review: THIS DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West

Title: The Distance Between Us
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 2nd 2013
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Pages: 312
Read if you like: Fangirl, The Duff, Anna and the French Kiss series
Rating: 4/5


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. 

As I've said in other posts and reviews, I am hard on YA contemporary romance novels. The day someone explains this to me I'll be super happy but in the meantime it boils down to this: I'm waiting for The One. There's a lot of bad YA contemporary romance out there and maybe being a little older, I know that a novel like this needs to be founded on a little more than hormonal angst. It feels unfair maybe to approach books of this genre this way, because I start of with unrealistic expectations, but The Distance Between Us actually made some headway in making me fall in love.

The premise is a little misleading because I was kind of expecting Caymen to somehow analyse rich people scientifically, maybe like The Rosie Project or similar. This was the impression I got from the blurb. I also thought there would be a lot more resistance between the Xander and Caymen - more antagonism in their flirting. But it wasn't like that at all. I saw some of the twists coming, particularly with her mother. The story itself plods along quite nicely without any major drama and I really liked the way it all resolved. One of the big themes throughout it about her 'organ donor' - the moniker she gives her absentee father who abandoned her and her mother. I was really glad that he wasn't brought back as plot device because that would have seemed hammy. Caymen and her mother have never needed him, so it wouldn't have been true to bring him into it now.

Caymen is a good heroine. She's really sarcastic and her responses had me laughing out loud at times. As a narrator, I found her voice easy to read and connect with. As someone who puts family first, I really felt connected to her, even if I'm not science orientated AT ALL. What I liked best about her was how flawed she was. She used comedy to avoid serious conversations, when it was probably a good idea to, and jumped to terrible conclusions all the way through the book but that was what made her real. I know everyone is hankering after 'strong' females in YA and I think Caymen is a good candidate. There are lots of different kinds of strength and I think sacrificing the things you want for others - the way Caymen does with her mother - is a great example of strength!

I loved Xander. I liked that West didn't do the classic cliche of having a rich guy who hated being rich and wanted to not be a stereotype. I got the impression that he liked his lifestyle and West did a good job of making it clear that there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I was glad that there was a good display of class prejudice from both sides and that the poorer characters were prideful and unkind at times too. As a romantic lead, I thought Xander was really sweet, showing up with once-sipped hot chocolate. It was little quirks like that, that made their relationship so cute. My favourite part of the story was their career days. I thought this was a really unique idea to have them spend time with one another and not only that, each one really did feed into Caymen's ultimate choice about what she was going to do with her life.

The pace of this book is really good. I read it right through in a few hours! One thing I hate about books is when the author sometimes becomes conscious that they're putting the romantic leads together too much so they toss in a bunch of filler chapters that slow the pace down and kill the mood. West has a good balance. There are scenes where Xander and Caymen aren't together but it all feeds into the overall plot. The only chapter I wasn't keen on was the first chapter; I tried to explain this to the book club and didn't really do a good job. I think, despite the fact we see the first interaction between the two characters and it is great, Caymen's voice as a narrative took a couple of chapters to get used to...or to settle...I don't know. But no complaints other than that.

Overall, it was a really cute romance and I liked it a lot. It didn't blow me away but I thought it was different, and I can see myself reading it again some day because it was such a light, quick read. It definitely convinced me to give Kasie West's other books a try (and I've heard lots of good things about them too!). Maybe The One is one of her other titles...