ON THE FRINGE
Courtney King Walker
Paranormal Young Adult
Lands Atlantic Publishing
Received through Teen Book Scene for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Claire is struggling to overcome the murder of her childhood friend and secret crush, Daniel. Everyone else seems to be moving on with their lives, but she's still trying to cope. The fact that she finds herself alone and drowning on her 16th birthday isn't helping.
Neither is thinking she sees Daniel's face in murky water as she mysteriously resurfaces. But something happened during those four and a half minutes that will make her realize it was not just her imagination.
As Claire and Daniel try to grasp a possible reconnection, other grudge-holding beings have plans of their own. Now, the two of them have to decide if their fleeting relationship is worth the possibility of Claire being trapped on the fringe forever.
On the Fringe wastes little time tying us up in emotional knots, dropping us immediately into the palpable tension that exists between Daniel and Claire as each starts to realize their feelings for the other extend beyond their roles as best friend and baby sister respectively. We find ourselves a little giddy instantaneously, though with that addictive buoyancy comes the weighty understanding that this sweet hesitancy is only going to be fleeting and temporary, soon to be replaced with darkness, pain, and loss. We almost wish this tale could be an adorable short story, taking us quickly through the developing romance and then leaving us breathless and content at the happy conclusion, but instead Ms. Walker plunges us under the light-infused surface and into depths that have us fully invested in Claire and Daniel’s lives (or deaths as the case may be), ultimately extremely thankful for the gift of extra page time.
Claire is a young woman who’s easy to like right off the bat, all twisted up with nerves as a result of her crush on someone who’s been in her life for as long as she can remember, struggling to find a way to escape the classification of Matthew’s Little Sister in the hope their relationship to one another can be redefined with more romantic–and less familial–feelings. When Daniel returns to her in less-than corporeal form, we don’t get pages and pages of denial or repeated hows and whys from her, instead she accepts his new presence in her life with relative ease, crossing us over into the world of the supernatural in a seamless way that makes everything she’s experiencing that much more believable.
Splitting the point of view equally between Claire and Daniel gives an interesting dual exposure to a ghostly world, Claire’s limited understanding of it making us feel more comfortable as her reactions mirror our own, but at the same time, we also get a deeper look at spectral happenings as Daniel explores his afterlife and his unusual connection to Claire. As a result, we feel fully surrounded by the events taking place as opposed to simply viewing them as an outsider from a single fixed direction. In addition to learning the ins and outs of Daniel’s non-life, we additionally get the return of a little of the giddiness we felt at the beginning, death having freed Claire and Daniel’s mouths from the nerves that kept them closed until it was almost too late, and we finally get to see them communicate all the things that went unsaid previously.
Ms. Walker has written an enthralling ghost story, one with equal parts light and dark where we find ourselves both on the edge of our seats, while also blissfully warm and content as we watch two people robbed of their time together get a chance to reconnect. We are left with a bittersweet ending, one that feels right and wrong at the same time, leaving us with the wish that Ms. Walker would write an alternate ending just to satisfy the part of us that would see the supernatural element kicked up a notch to perhaps stretch the limits of believability for the sake of what our hearts want most. Then we could have both the practical and impractical at our fingertips–able to choose an ending based on our mood—but ultimately we can concede that events wrap up as they should, with Ms. Walker playing our emotions with a consummate skill we can’t wait to experience again.