Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West
Source: Gift from Christmas
Check this book out on Goodreads.
For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.
To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. (Source: Goodreads)
Charlie’s always done everything with her 3 brothers, father, and her honorary brother, Braden. So when she gets stuck working at a clothing store to pay off her speeding tickets she’s a little out of her element. She feels far from at home and less than her self at work so the two worlds become separate. She starts telling lies to her boss, keeping her love of sports from her new friends and boyfriend, and hides her new clothes and make-up from her family. All the while she tries to cope with recurring nightmares, the pressure of lying, and the fact that she doesn’t know where she stands with Braden as they chat across the fence each night about things they’d never discuss during the day.
I loved this book. I adored West’s previous book The Distance Between Us but this is even better! The plot in this book was so cute! As were the characters. But even more than that, West was able to capture some really dark, serious content right alongside the cute stuff. She tackles plots about mental health, abusive families, and just general ethics. In my head while reading I compared this book to Paper or Plastic a lot, and this book definitely took on the serious subjects with a lot more emotional depth. It was definitely a step up for West who hadn’t captured these emotions as well in The Distance Between Us.
When I first read the concept for this book I knew I’d love it. Falling for a guy you spend each night secretly chatting across the fence too? Adorable. West definitely pulled this plot off. I definitely loved the way she created all these separate little pockets of Charlie’s life that she is afraid of having collide. It created a really interesting tension in the book. I also really liked the romance plot, which was so much a love triangle but this giant question mark of affection. The guys in the book are all terrified of Charlie’s brothers, which makes it difficult for her to understand she doesn’t need to change herself for a guy to like her. That was definitely a great message. I loved the relationship between Braden and Charlie. I also really liked that they were friends first and foremost and that she has lots of male friends, however it was a little sucky that none of these are strictly platonic as pretty much all the guys in the book are interested in her romantically. That’s kind of disappointing. I was impressed with West’s approach to the serious topics. Obviously they weren’t intended to be the main focus of the book, but they fit in perfectly. The situation with Charlie’s mom is interesting and creates a sense of mystery to the book. While Braden’s home life creates a camaraderie between the siblings and their neighbour.
I liked the characters. I think West created a more interesting set of characters in this book. Charlie was tough and despite her “tomboy” personality there’s definitely a great deal of femininity to her. I think he desire to have a mother was really well written and you can feel this undercurrent of it throughout the book. Her affection for her brothers was really touching as well. There was one moment, early in the book, that didn’t really add up to me. When her friend’s grandmother dies and she’s completely clueless and insensitive. It didn’t fit her, she was actually really sentimental, so this bit felt forced. I think there are a lot of attempts to make her into a stereotypical “tomboy” a lot of which didn’t really work. I think West strayed a bit from the stereotype which is great but it felt like she was making an effort not to stray too far. I didn’t really like the way Charlie was presented at “tomboy” and nothing else, as though doing sports and hanging out with guys means she is incapable of femininity at all. Braden was so swoon worthy. He was charming and polite and sweet. I loved his relationship her Charlie and her brothers. All of his interactions with Charlie were so sweet not just romantic, but like he would be the perfect friend, brother, or boyfriend.
I think this book was such a step up from West’s previous work. There was this emotional current throughout the book that wasn’t there in The Distance Between Us. I mean, it was no heart wrecking, sob-worthy, deeply touching novel, but it was touching and it was emotional. The plot about Charlie’s mother especially was really excellent. I also really liked the femininity crisis that Charlie goes through which really stems her her mother. I think her rant about boys not liking her because of her “tomboy” nature was really good, because I think it represents something of a truth in our society, that girls are pressured to be something someone else wants.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wouldn’t call it a favourite, but it was definitely a good read that I would recommend to people. West really captured her characters and story well and I was impressed.