~ Spoiler Free Book Review – Fence: Striking Distance by – Sarah Rees Brennan ~


I love the graphic novel series, “Fence,” so I was excited to see that there would be a novelization of the story. According to Goodreads, it’s a continuation but also a spin-off after the events of volume three. Frankly, my expectations might have been too high because this book disappointed me.

In short, it follows a group of high school boys on the fencing team at a boarding school. The comics focused on the extremely slow burn hate to possible love romance between roommates and teammates: Seiji and Nicholas. In the book, they take a backseat to childhood friends, Harvard the Captain and Ayden the Flirt. This was fine, but I felt that the nuances and joys from the comics were missing in the book. I know that I shouldn’t compare the two, but it’s difficult knowing that the graphic novel is the source material, especially since I have so much love for it.

My main gripe with the book is that almost every single character is off the deep end of clueless and immature. There isn’t a single rational soul, and I’m so confused at how everyone in this fencing team could be so oblivious to everything including normal life and people’s emotions. Nicholas is described as so poor that he doesn’t even know expensive items exist; it boggles my mind that he could be that detached from the real world. How was he living this entire time? Not only Nicholas but the lovely Seiji and his robotic and antisocial behavior is characterized to the extreme that he’s almost a caricature. It’s not funny, and I’m just left perplexed. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the phone conversation Seiji had with his father.  

As for the writing, sometimes the way characters were introduced or described could get a little redundant and wordy. I’m happy to see side characters from the comics getting a chance to shine. However, it was very unnatural for the coach to force every member to write an essay about their childhood as a team bonding exercise. This came off as a contrived plot device utilized in a way where readers could hear everyone’s sob backstory – I didn’t need this.      

As a romance reader, I enjoy the troupe of friends to lovers and I especially love fake dating. However, I don’t think the fake dating aspect was well crafted. In the graphic novel, tiny progress would give me so much glee. Yet, the fake dating charade only highlighted how socially inept both Ayden and Harvard could be towards each other and the people they were seeing. This was weird because they are obviously the smart ones. Anyways, I wonder if this common/ shared personality trait will be used to create the same plot lines for future stories…   

Furthermore, I read some reviews online expressing their discontent over the lack of fencing, and I utterly concur. Another comment noted that there wasn’t a single sane character besides Neil, and I kind of agree. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone was too childish.

I noticed that this is a possible ongoing book series. Although I wasn’t impressed with this first installment, I didn’t think it was bad. There were some enjoyable parts. I will probably pick up the second book in audio format again when it comes out. As for my rating for Fence: Striking Distance, I’m giving it a 3/5. Hopefully the second book will improve from here. I want more excitement and better pining.