Over the Fence
Fire & Ice Young Adult Books (2023)
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (05/23)
Over a decade ago, six-year-old Katie Figg was abducted outside her home, never to see her family again. Now at seventeen—forced to go by the name Eve Anderson—she endures torture daily at the hands of “Papa,” her captor. The tortured girl lives with Papa and his partner “Mama” in a dilapidated house infested with cockroaches, bars covering the windows, and a tall, impenetrable fence shutting her from the outside world. Eve’s sole reason for surviving is to care for Honey, the four-year-old daughter she had with Papa.
Seventeen-year-old Emma Love and her aunt are reeling over the brutal assault that has left Emma’s sister, Noelle, in a vegetative state. They stay in Bell Meade, Minnesota, renting the house behind Eve’s, while they await sentencing for Noelle’s ex-boyfriend whose ruthless beating caused her brain damage. Though overwrought with grief and anger, Emma tries to live a normal life, including playing in a band and making friends. She begins conversing with Eve through a wooden fence and quickly realizes something isn’t right; the girl may be in danger.
Time is running out for Eve. Papa plans to move them to a farm and marry her in a matter of weeks. Eve must do something before she disappears forever. Can she trust Emma to help her?
When trying to articulate my immense love for this book, I was at a loss for words. It took me a while to recover from the emotional rollercoaster and digest what I’d just read. How could a few hundred words ever do this story justice? Simply put, “Over the Fence” by Debbie Schrack is the best book I’ve ever read. The trauma, the beauty, and the grief left a permanent imprint on my heart, and I finished the book knowing I would be thinking about the characters long after the last page. This achingly beautiful but poignant story is one of strife and resiliency, and I will never be the same after reading it.
Schrack has created two vastly different worlds, but they share the theme of hope throughout. Hope for love, and hope that justice will prevail. Despite the variances in urgency, both Eve and Emma are in dire situations, and the author has deftly captured their individual plight. Emma must grapple with the possibility of losing her sister forever. Eve fears being stuck in Papa’s little house of horrors forever. Still, that little voice—the one that is louder than any whisper of doubt—propels them to keep going.
Beyond the strength of character and unfettered perseverance, this was an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller that could easily be captured on the big screen. Schrack took her time developing the plot and building backstories, so once she pulled back the curtain, it all made sense, and the action that followed was epic. I was glued to every bone-chilling moment between brutal physical struggles and characters racing against the clock. Needless to say, the story was gripping; I dedicated all my free time to voraciously tearing through the pages.
“Over the Fence” grabbed me by the heartstrings and wouldn’t relent. I will happily sing its praises from the rooftops to anyone who will listen. The skillfully woven plot, strength of characters, and expertly curated suspense are worthy of five stars and all the accolades that come with it. If there is any book you need to read this year, it’s this one!