Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Title: The Distance Between Us

Author: Kasie West

Rating: 2 Stars

I've been itching to try a Kasie West novel ever since her debut - and successive sophomore novel - took the blogging world by surprise. I have a wide variety of friends in the blogosphere, all with different tastes, but if there's one thing they agreed upon, it was that this book was good.

Um, not so much for me.

I really enjoyed West's prose, so I have a feeling I'll be back for more, and this novel just flew by so quickly and was practically impossible to let go of, but ultimately I wasn't charmed. It tackles on a little too much, a little too poorly, and although I struggled with aspects of the story, the parts I really loved were more-or-less pushed under the carpet and dealt with in a very shot-gun conclusion that wrapped things up a little too neatly for my tastes. Ultimately, however, my main issue is that this story is oozing with potential - potential that is, sadly, never acted upon.

The Distance Between Us tackles a rather generic love story - rich boy meets poor girl - but it has a lot of promising elements too. For one, Caymen (the poor girl in question) owns a doll shop with her single-mother who she maintains a strong relationship with. For another, the reason Caymen and Xander (the rich boy and heir of an expensive hotel business) are drawn together is not because of "chemistry", but because they are both struggling to find their place in the world. While Caymen is initially wary of Xander's extended hand of friendship, primarily because her father is a wealthy lawyer who abandoned her mother and never attempted to contact her, the premises of their relationship seemed promising.

Well, talk about a wake-up call.

For me, the most disappointing aspect of this novel was the fact that Caymen and Xander's attempts to help each other find their perfect career was merely a plot device to draw them together. I've found that the age of seventeen is on the cusp of Young Adult and New Adult; it tempts authors to push that boundary and tackle the more complicated questions of a looming future, but also draws them back to safety of a well-worn love story. And, sadly, West took the easy route out. Although I appreciated the fact that Xander used his wealth to expose Caymen to options she wouldn't have considered with her poor background, the opposite did not hold true and Xander's introduction into a life of "poorly" occupations was lacking in depth. Moreover, by the end of the novel this entire plot thread was thrown out of the window in favor of - you guessed it - needless drama and a convenient conclusion.

Even past the immediate plot of this story, the characters failed to truly jump out at me. While Caymen constantly describes her relationship with her mother as being strong and supportive, it isn't ever shown throughout the narration. Additionally, while Caymen and Xander push out of their stereotypes of "poor" and "rich", their friends remain black-and-white, eating at gas stations or making lewd comments. Furthermore, I cannot claim to have been enamored by Caymen - or her narration, for that matter. Although I appreciated her sarcastic tone, the constant comparisons between her lifestyle and that of Xander's grew tiresome and the issue as a whole is, as I've mentioned previously, handled a little too neatly. Moreover, Xander lacks any real personality beyond being kind. I often have trouble connected with nice romantic leads, merely because nice does not constitute the entirety of a person. Okay, Xander is nice and caring...what else? What makes him tick? What skeletons are in his closet? Give me something!

And, on the subject of romance, West throws in another love interest in this novel - one who is at the same economic level as Caymen - and though he is far more interesting and shares many more passions than Xander does, his character is purposefully left under-developed so as to keep the spotlight on Caymen and Xander. It's such an unnecessary plot device that does nothing for the romance or for the message of this novel in terms of stereotypes. In fact, all it succeeded in doing was grate on me. West not only has a huge fan base, but she has devoted readers who have extolled this novel far more than it deserves, in my opinion, and I simply did not expect these sorts of plot tropes from such a well-known story.

I am sure that The Distance Between Us will continue to win over fans, but much like My Life Next Door, this is one contemporary that just has not worked for me. While I can at least claim that the latter had many solid scenes and used its characters (and their economic statuses) to its advantage, this novel ends the novel very quickly, failing to go back and address many of the self-discovery issues that Caymen and Xander face and solving the monetary problems between them a little too easily as well. I would still recommend this book for fans of contemporary romance and I will, definitely, be reading West's next romance (I am a sucker for best-friend romances!), but I need my story lines to be a tad bit more realistic and contain a much needed dose of substance. We'll see if West moves in that direction...or not.


  1. Oh dear. What a bummer. And I so liked the cover.

    I'll read it anyway, because I really enjoyed Pivot Point, but the things you touched on here are such pet peeves of mine. Grrrr.

    Kate @ The Midnight Garden

  2. Aw, that sucks. I love Kasie's Pivot Point and I've been wanting to read this book ever since, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I liked My Life Next though, so there's still a chance.

    I hope you'll still read Pivot Point, Keertana!

  3. Sorry that this book didn't work out for you Keertana, I've read a lot of praising reviews for this book so far too, but it's always great to a get a differing opinion. Although I love my contemporary romances, I do sometimes want them to give me something more and I can understand your frustrations with neatly wrapped up endings, they do get really tiresome! However I'm glad this book didn't put you off completely in reading more contemporary stuff by West. Lovely review hun! :)

  4. It's totally okay to NOT like a book that everyone else loves, Keertana. I've felt that way with a ton of books...not the least of which was this one. I just thought it was riddled with cliches, and it failed to capture any semblance of heartfelt reality. I honestly felt a bit cheated by it, you know? You, clearly, stated it much better than me though! Wonderful review, doll.

  5. Aw, sorry this one didn't work for you Keertana! I'm glad you're not passing on Kasie West entirely after reading this though, maybe she'll be an author to grow on you. While I loved it, I can definitely see how it wouldn't work for a lot of people, Caymen's sarcasm is a lot to take at times, but I loved her because I share that sense of humor and I know I grate on people too:) I agree with you on the other love interest, he was completely unnecessary to the plot and I wish he had been left out:)

  6. I am so tired of the same romance plots. I knew this was something like this when I saw the cover and read the synopsis.

  7. I've heard some mixed reactions to this author's books so I haven't tried them yet--but so many people seem to enjoy, too! *is confused* I'm surprised to hear you didn't like My Life Next Door, though, that one seems to be almost universally loved.

    Thanks for articulating what did and didn't work for you, Keertana. I have this lying around somewhere, but I guess I don't need to hurry to get to it. :P

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  8. I have heard a lot about this book and author as well, but I never got to read it. Honestly I don't think this is for me, as I like me reads to be deeper not only something to go through without even thinking about it. So sorry you didn't enjoy this one as much and I really hope your next read is amazing. Great honest review Keertana :)

  9. I've only heard good things about this book, so I was really interested to hear about the negative parts of it! At least now I'll be prepared with a little bit of skepticism when I walk into it ;)

  10. Sorry this one didn't work for you. However, the fact that you have not given up on this author speaks well for her writing and so I know I need to give at least one book of hers a good read!

  11. I'm one of those who loved this book, but I have to say, reading your review, I agree with you on your points. I really wanted that thread of job opportunities explored as well.

    However, the hilarious dialogue and back and forth between these two characters as well as her friends made up for all of it. Some scenes in particular like the hot chocolate scene, were so real and funny and poignant, that carried the rest of it for me. I also loved Pivot Point.

    Thanks for all your great reviews. I'm curious now about My Life Next Door! I've been adding some books on my TBR list from your rec's. Including yesterday's reviews!

    1. Thanks, Terry! I reviewed My Life Next Door last year and though I loved the romance - and realistic portrayal of safe sex - I was disappointed by the perfection of the love interest, the dramatic story line, and especially the fact that the main character did little to maintain her life-long friendships. It kind of came down to the other plot threads not making much of an impact on me, sadly, but I know many readers have loved that one and I hope you do too!

  12. This isn't the sort of book I would normally enjoy. I actually agree with you on almost everything... no, everything, really. But it somehow came at the right moment, I read it in a single evening and ended up quite enjoying it despite myself. I'm sorry it didn't work out like that for you.

  13. I fell in love with this cover and really wanted to read it but your review is not the first I've read that found the story and characters so disappointing. I'm not a fan of drama for the sake of drama :/

  14. I'm sorry to hear this didn't work out for you, Keertana. I loved Pivot Point so I think I'll still end up reading this someday. Great honest review. :)

  15. I initially thought I would read this in one go and it probably would have gotten a very high rating because I love West's writing so much. However I was interrupted and when I returned, I started noticing some of the same things you (much better and more thoroughly than I) pointed out. Luckily Pivot Point has much different plot points so I hope you'll like it more.

  16. I want to read this one because I was surprised that I did end up enjoying Pivot Point, but the premise just doesn't interest me at all. And based on your review (one of the few negative ones I've read), I think perhaps I'll simply wait for Split Second to release. How generic this story sounds - at least plot-wise - is definitely a turn-off for me. That's also disappointing to hear about the love triangle. Sorry you had such a disappointing experience, Keertana! Maybe you would enjoy Pivot Point a bit more.

  17. I agree, The Distance Between Us was an okay read for my but not what I want to read when I pick up a YA contemporary novel. Not sure if I will pick up Kasie's future YA contemps, but I'm a huge fan of her Pivot Point series:)

  18. I really like your comment that Caymen's attempts to give Xander "poor" work options wasn't as thoughtful as Xander's attempt. I agree. But that all worked into my frustration over Caymen's constant moping about her lack of money. It really wore on me. ESPECIALLY her internal comparisons. I had a HUGE problem with her relationship with her mom and agree, it never looks like it was healthy. And that other guy should have been expunged from the story. He was NOT needed.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who was disappointed. I started to think that I'd picked up the wrong book!


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