Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
Over the Fence is yet another outstanding piece of spirited and inspired literature by Debbie Schrack, a previous grand-prize winner and author of one of the books we enjoyed the most last season, Saving Sophie.
Debbie Schrack is an excellent writer who crafts such interesting characters in tense and compelling situations.
This book features two amazing protagonists in Eve (Katie) and Emma caught up in two different yet parallel conflicts, separated only by a fence—thus explaining the title.
To describe a very complicated situation simply: Eve was once known as Katie, an innocent blonde-haired girl who was abducted by a cult led by a deranged lunatic named William Axel Anderson.
Anderson is usually just referred to by the thoroughly creepy and menacing title “Papa.” Despite passing himself off as a Bible-following father-figure, Papa is absolutely despicable and terrifying: abusing and sexually exploiting Eve, whom he even forces to marry and consummate with him despite her young age. Every time Papa is on the page, your hairs will stick up and you'll feel cold, sweaty chills. He has convinced Eve that he has murdered her family, and it is strongly implied throughout the book that he is involved in a string of such murders at the hands of a “Goldilocks Killer.”
Papa is effectively the main antagonist and villain of the novel, but he's not alone.
There's also Emma's arc which follows her as she seeks justice against the man who left her sister, Mel, in a vegetative state and on the verge of death. The man responsible for Mel's condition is Jack Armstrong, the son of wealthy parents who owned the Armstrong Academy, and Mel's ex-boyfriend. Jack is effectively the other antagonist of this novel.
One of the things that this book does really well is highlighting gaps in the justice system and the systems in place to protect endangered people like victims of kidnapping or child abuse. It also highlights how fear, scare tactics, and manipulation are used by the perpetrators to control their victims.
One of the most frustrating things about how this story goes, reflecting real life, is how relatively light the treatment and sentencing of these despicable, dangerous criminals are when compared to the long-lasting and/or permanent harm they cause their victims. Someone might spend a few months or years in prison for a crime that ruined or ended a person's entire life. Some manslaughter cases end this way, as do kidnapping cases.
Realistically speaking, some of these guys should never see the light of day outside a prison again. They are a danger to society and should pay for the harm they've caused. There should be no parole or leniency for these types of people: the worst of the worst.
However, sadly, that's not how the system works. In fact, you could argue that criminals have more rights than their victims do.
Anyway, what's interesting about this story is that despite there being two distinct stories going on with two separate protagonists and two separate villains, both are interesting and engaging.
You never really find yourself wanting to go back to check on one scenario or the other. It's 50-50. You want Eve to find her freedom just as much as you want Emma to get her justice and to see her sister conscious again.
One of the most heartbreaking lines in the book is when Eve says that she remembers how it felt to be truly loved and cared for by a real family. This shows that, despite the brainwashing process of the cult, memories of her former life still live on in her mind.
Ultimately, this is a really powerful and heart wrenching story. It's tragic that anyone has to go through things like these girls, yet sadly there are terrible, awful people in this world. We need to be the good guys. We need to stand out for the weak and the defenseless. We need to advocate for victims.
Check this out on Amazon!