Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West
Release Date: July 1st 2014
Kasie West’s On the Fence is the perfect read if you’re looking for a contemporary novel with a well-developed lead and just the right amount of romance. West’s protagonist, Charlotte “Charlie” Reynolds, is what really makes this book stand apart from her other novels. Charlie has grown up in a house full of boys, having lost her mother at a young age. She feels much more comfortable in a pair of cleats than high heels. Her three brothers and neighbor, Braden, have always treated her like another boy and she wouldn’t have it any other way. But her new job opens a new world to her, she meets girls she always dismissed because they were too girly and discovers that she may have more in common with them than she realized. One small criticism I had with this storyline is that it kind of implied that no sporty girl could be into makeup and fashion as well. While I don’t think this is what the author meant to do, it did feel like she was drawing a line, because although Charlie hung out with a lot of sporty girls, not one is mentioned as also liking “girly” stuff. To me this was very unrealistic.
Charlie really struggles with being vulnerable. Her father has never been into sharing his feelings and her brothers are much more likely to take on a crazy dare than open up to each other. Charlie, in turn, feels the need to be just as tough, even with her mother’s passing continuing to haunt her. Her secret talks with Braden is the first time where she feels she can talk about things she usually hides during the day. Braden also finds a confidant in Charlie. This is one aspect I wish had been explored more. While Charlie struggles with trying to remember the mother she lost at such a young age, Braden is dealing with an alcoholic father whose favorite activity while inebriated is picking a fight. While I understand this is a story about Charlie, I would have liked to have seen Braden open up more to her, especially when it came to this particular issue.
Having read The Fill-In Boyfriend and The Distance Between Us, I did not go into this one expecting to be blown away; however, On the Fence exceeded my expectations. Charlie’s relationship with her brothers is strong and easily relatable, a major highlight of the book. I loved that she was able to recognize that being athletic and girly are not mutually exclusive, and you should never change yourself in order to be accepted by other people.