Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West
Release Date: 07/01/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Before I decided what to rate On the Fence I went back and looked at what rating I gave to The Distance Between Us (3.5 stars). I enjoyed both books, On the Fence a little more, but to me they are both good contemporary YA novels, but they’re not outstanding contemporary YA novels.
Charlie is a total tomboy, a type of character I really like. Her mother died when she was younger and she’s been raised by her police officer father and three older brothers. Together with her brothers and the boy who lives next door, Braden, she plays football, basketball, frisbee golf, and does about every other guy activity you can think of. When she gets a speeding ticket one day (her second) her father forces her to get a job to pay for it and she ends up working at a pretty girly boutique in her town’s Old Town section (the same town where The Distance Between Us takes place).
I can’t explain exactly why I like tomboy stories so much, but I do. In this case there’s the sad part about Charlie’s mom passing away when she was six years old. When she starts working at the boutique the owner, Linda, kind of becomes the mom Charlie never had, telling her what she should and shouldn’t wear and helping her with things like makeup. As part of working at the store Charlie also begins to model makeup in the store where she works and also at a bridal shop. Charlie’s identity is wrapped up in the idea that she’s not a girly girl and that she can’t relate to girly girls but working in the store, modeling the makeup, and becoming friends with the makeup artist makes Charlie wonder if maybe there is something good about being a little girly.
Even though Charlie has these amazing sports skills and lots of guy friends, she’s really insecure when it comes to guys seeing her in a romantic sense and making girl friends. Part of this is her brothers’ fault for being protective and not letting any of the guys they hang out with ask Charlie out, but it also goes back to feelings that Charlie had from her mother’s death. Overall the book was much sadder and deeper than I expected and, at least for me, that wasn’t always a good thing. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy watching Charlie hang out with the girls she meets in the boutique and try to talk about girly things (which she sees aren’t so bad) or start looking at guys in a more romantic sense, I did, but sometimes it all felt very stereotypical, which is the point, but sometimes I found myself rolling my eyes.
Like all of Kasie West’s books the strongest aspect of this book was the romance. One night when Charlie isn’t able to sleep because of nightmares about her mom she goes outside and finds Braden, her neighbor and friend, and they start having these “fence chats.” Because it’s night and they’re alone and they’re not looking at each other they’re able to discuss all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally talk about. Most of their conversations were fun, but also really intimate and they were a joy to read about. I’ve talked before about how I like boy next door romances and already established couple and even though Charlie and Braden weren’t an already established couple, they were already friends and because of that they really knew each other to start, so everything else was building on top of that.
Oddly enough I actually also really liked the failed romance in the book. When out with her new makeup artist friend Charlie meets this kind of douchy guy and they go on some dates and it’s kind of her introduction to the dating world. Dating him allows Charlie to see that she is attractive to guys, all kinds of guys, and it boosted her self-confidence and gave her the help she needed to realize who she really wanted. It was also an important lesson to date someone who you can be yourself around.
Bottom Line: Even though this isn’t a great contemporary read for me, it’s still an entertaining book with a fun main character and an interesting romance. There are some deeper, sadder parts to it, which didn’t completely click with me, but it does help make it more than just a fluffy summer read. On the Fence is another solid book from Kasie West.
I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.
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