Annotation: Claire is heartbroken when her lifelong crush, her best friend’s older brother Daniel, is tragically killed in a seemingly random shooting. Months later after her own near death experience, Claire is shocked to discover that she can communicate with Daniel’s spirit which is stuck in “the fringe,” and that his murder might not have been random after all.
Personal thoughts: Although this book did a pretty good job of creeping me out in parts, I had some trouble in finding something to latch onto to make it a novel I really loved. I thought Claire and Daniel were interesting characters, but I didn’t feel like I really got to know them in the story. The first few chapters (when Daniel was still alive) were my favorite in the book, and I wish that the author had spent a little more time developing Claire and Daniel and their relationship before jumping into ghosts-ville. I also didn’t really understand the “bad guy” or why he was so mean-spirited, my final guess being that the author simply meant for him to be just crazy. Overall, I did somewhat enjoy the novel, but it was one of those reads where I felt like I really could have loved it had it lived up to its potential fully. Either way, I am looking forward to seeing what Courtney King Walker comes up with next because she seems to definitely have some interesting ideas up her sleeve.
Plot summary: Since she was a little girl, sixteen-year-old Claire and her best friend Addie have been joined at the hip with Claire’s older brother, Matthew, who also happens to be best friends with Addie’s older brother, Daniel. The four have years of memories growing up together, the boys playing pranks on their annoying little sisters and the girls trying to keep up with their older brothers’ games. Now that they’re older, however, Claire and Daniel are just beginning to discover that they actually have feelings for each other. Daniel isn’t just Addie’s older brother, but is handsome and kind, and Daniel likes Claire’s adventurous and whimsical nature. Just as their relationship begins to blossom, however, Daniel is tragically killed in what appears to be a random shooting at a party. Addie, Matthew and Claire are completely heartbroken by the loss. In the months following his death, the three grieve in their own ways: Matthew going off to college, Addie focusing on her social life, and Claire wondering why her brother and her best friend are trying to move on from something that she feels has altered her life forever. Everything changes, however, after a freak accident causes Claire to nearly drown in a lake near her house. As she is losing consciousness beneath the surface of the water, she sees Daniel’s face, and he pulls her to shore. At first she thinks she imagined it, but Claire soon realizes that her near death experience has given her the ability to communicate with Daniel’s spirit. But how can Claire keep her newfound connection with Daniel a secret? And was his murder truly random, or was someone, or something, else behind Daniel’s death?
Review: In her first book, author Courtney King Walker creates a bittersweet and often creepy ghost story that is interesting but doesn’t exactly leave the reader with warm fuzzy feelings when it’s all said and done. The story begins in a very non-paranormal fashion: Claire is a free-spirited girl who finds herself falling for her best friend’s older brother, Daniel. Since the novel is told by dual narrators, both Daniel and Claire get to express the events of the story from their perspective, and Daniel’s description of his realization that Claire was more than just his best friend’s kid sister is very sweet. The story abruptly changes, however, after Daniel is murdered (shot in the head, to be exact.) This plot element was jarring, and the sweetness that was established in the first few chapters almost completely disappears. Claire discovering her new found connection with Daniel’s spirit is nice, but it does come after she nearly drowns. There is also a vengeful ghost who has it in for Daniel, and decides to haunt Claire after he discovers that she and Daniel have found a way to communicate. Everything in the plot seems to have a negative aspect to it, something that made it hard to get the romantic feelings flowing while Claire and Daniel fall more in love with each other. Some side characters are introduced throughout the story as well and are never fully vetted, leaving the reader slightly confused when they end up playing a large role in the plot. Overall, fans of ghost stories are likely to enjoy On the Fringe, but as a romance and a completely developed novel, the book leaves a bit to be desired.
Genre: Fiction/Ghost Story
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Hereafter series by Tara Hudson, Envy: An Empty Coffin Novel by Gregg Olsen, Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay, Lightbringer by K.D. McEntire, The Poisoned House by Michael Ford.
Themes: Ghosts, murder, revenge, romance, friendship, grief, loss.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews on Amazon.com.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:- What was the significance of the silver ring in the story? What did it symbolize about Claire and Daniel’s relationship?
- After Daniel’s death, explain the difference between the way Matthew, Addie and Claire grieved. Which way do you think was the most “normal”? Do you think that one method of grieving is better than another?
- When Claire almost drown in the lake on the night of her birthday, do you think a part of her wanted to die? Why or why not?
- How do you explain the “connection” between Daniel and Claire after she almost drowned?
- Why do you think Aden couldn’t forgive Daniel?
- How do you explain the relationship between Aden and Felix?