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.
Beautifully told, On the Fringe intertwines fresh ideas about devotion, revenge, and the consequences that come with life and death.
When separated by the harsh reality of death, will love get a second chance?
Ever since 15-year-old Claire was four, Daniel has been a constant presence in her life. Not only are they neighbors, but his little sister, Addie, just happens to be her bestie while Daniel and Claire’s brother, Matthew, are practically inseparable. Together the four of them have shared almost every noteworthy childhood memory. One day, a couple of months before his senior graduation, Daniel comes to some realizations about the nature of his feelings for his best friend’s little sister. Unbeknownst to him, Claire has begun to notice him as well. They dance around each other for weeks, both afraid of admitting what they feel, the other’s rejection, their siblings finding out. Then one fateful night, Matthew and Daniel attend a party, a gun is drawn and Daniel is shot and killed. Matthew, Claire and Addie are understandably devastated at the loss of Daniel, each grieving in their own, sometimes unhealthy, way.
Months pass and still grieving for Daniel, Claire finds her 16th birthday party taking a decided turn for the worst when she accidentally falls in the lake near her house, and can’t pull herself out. When the fog finally clears from her mind, she’s certain Daniel rescued her from certain drowning, and she suspects he’s not completely gone from her yet.
Faced with the possibility of a second chance, Claire & Daniel struggle to make sense of Daniel’s continued fringe existence and their feelings for each other as they come face to face with a vengeful spirit intent on the destruction of their happiness.
While I love many things about On the Fringe, one of the things I appreciate most about this book is how realistically Claire and Daniel are portrayed. They are not super-teens or overly adult, like many YA protagonists tend to be. I remember being 16. I remember the slightly lost feeling, trying to figure out where I fit into the larger picture, trying to define who I was and why I believed what I believed. Heck, some of those feelings never truly leave you. All that to say, I think Walker did an excellent job at communicating the complicated aspects of being a teenager – specifically a teen dealing with grief, loss and first love – in a very honest, genuine way. The trials they’ve been subject to and the obstacles to their relationship that Claire and Daniel face require a lot of maturity, and definitely give them a renewed perspective on life, death and what it truly means to love. They are both just wonderful characters who tugged on my heartstrings and who underwent a lot of individual development as the story progressed.
Speaking of my heartstrings being tugged, another thing Walker does very well is drawing readers in emotionally. Whether it be a grief-laden scene, a frightening scene, or a romantic scene, the emotions and character responses just seem so natural and grabbed a hold of me. Claire and Daniel’s romance in particular, just inspires such bittersweet feelings. I mean imagine coming to the realization that you may love someone who’s been a constant part of your life for almost as long as you can remember. But you’ve never had the chance to tell them before they’re suddenly gone in the blink of an eye. You have had them for all that time, never realizing just what you had, never telling them how you felt and now you never will. It seems to me as if that’s a different kind of grief – mourning the person as well as the possibilities that can never be. It’s heartrending, and I believe Walker does an excellent job of communicating these complex emotions through Claire’s grieving process as she can do nothing but keep on living in spite of her loss. I think it’s a difficult skill to master – resonating with a reader emotionally on a very real level and generating genuine sympathy for a character and their fate. Yet, scene after scene, Walker accomplishes this so well.
Storywise, I felt at times as if the plot moved a little slowly, though it’s one of those books that builds at a simmer until the climax. I also wasn’t completely sold on the antagonist, who is certainly mean and frightening, but, for some reason I can’t put my finger on, just wasn’t quite doing it for me. I also found myself wishing for more of an explanation of the Fringe, the existence Daniel finds himself “living” in after his death. I was just hoping for a few more specifics on the purpose and the rules, even though I know that’s not really the purpose of the story. I’m just insatiably curious and I don’t like when certain things are left to interpretation or vagueness.
On the flip side, I adore the achingly wistful tone that pervades the entire book. The climactic scene is intense and worth the wait. Walker does a fantastic job of bringing the action to a boil and it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat. And I love the conclusion. I wasn’t sure quite how Walker would end On the Fringe, but I thought the resolution was a beautiful and fitting end to Claire & Daniel’s story. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Overall, with a strong, emotional resonance, fantastically realistic teen protagonists and an achingly sweet romance, On the Fringe is a beautifully written novel about second chances, healing and the nature of love.
Title: On the Fringe
Published: October 19th 2011 by Lands Atlantic Publishing, LLC
Format: Paperback, 272 pages; Kindle; Nook
Source: ARC Tour courtesy of the author