After a rough finals period, I needed a feel-good teen romance to keep me going, and I found that in Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us. I discovered Kasie West through her book By Your Side, which I won in a giveaway in the Facebook Group Owlcrate Society, and after putting off reading it for almost a year, I finally gave in and enjoyed it. They aren’t going to be the next great classics or romances like Gone with the Wind or Pride and Prejudice, but they’re fun, easy reads and I enjoy them when I’m in the mood for them.
The Distance Between Us opens with Caymen Meyers, a young, broke high schooler working in her mother’s porcelain doll shop. I love this little twist on the typical “broke family” trope and how the aesthetic of the doll shop played out in so many ways through the story. Caymen is raised by her single mother, lives above the doll shop, and has been taught to fear the rich, because her mother is only a single mother due to being dumped and bought off by a rich baby daddy whose family didn’t want this smear on their good name. Cue Xander Spence, who walks in the doll shop door like he owns the place and immediately excites a lot of confusing feelings in Caymen. I’m not spoiling anything by telling you a relationship ensues, but it doesn’t go exactly as you might expect, and there are some interesting roadblocks in their way. By the end of the book, Caymen is trying to not only understand how own emotions but who she is.
I loved reading this book because it didn’t rely on being set in high school, which always throws me off when I’m reading YA novels, because I’m about to graduate from college, and anyways, my high school life was never so exciting. Yes, Caymen and Xander are trying to decide what careers they might want and they discuss college, but they don’t meet at school, we never see Caymen slaving away at a classroom desk, and the big climax scene doesn’t take place at a Prom in a poorly decorated gymnasium.
Sure, this book has a lot of the cliched tropes that my fiction writing professors warned against, and I could see the ending from a block and a half away, but I didn’t mind, because I actually screamed during a kissing scene and giggled at in-text flirtation and this book made me smile, and that’s all I wanted out of this book. I think the handling of the rich vs poor thing could have been handled better though, because it was very exaggerated, with Xander basically being a Hilton or Trump and Caymen being the little match girl. We all know that these dynamics play out much more subtlety, in people who live paycheck to paycheck vs people who go out to dinner at sit down restaurants several times at week, and in people who wear used dresses and people who spend a down payment on a car on their prom dress. I want stories like those told more often, because I’m not some girl from a single parent home who dated a billionaire’s son, but I’ve definitely dated people who had significantly more money than my family, and the juxtaposition wasn’t so stark, but it was an interesting dynamic. Let’s hope for more realistic stories in the future, because we can’t all fall in love with a hotel heir, but we can fall in love with the son of a doctor, and that can be just as big of a deal.