Review: ‘On the Fence’ by Kasie West

Review: ‘On the Fence’ by Kasie WestOn the Fence by Kasie West
Genres: Young Adult
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-07-01
Format: Paperback
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She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. 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.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect.

I’m still smiling like an idiot just thinking of this book. Oh Kasie West, you’ve done it again!

Just like in her companion novel The Distance Between Us, Kasie West adds a bit of a serious topic to an otherwise very light read, and does so spectacularly. Having lost her mom when she was just six, Charlie still struggles with that loss (though she remembers little), and also with the absence of a female presence in her life. When she is suddenly thrust into the world of clothes, guys, and makeup (while working at a boutique), she wonders if there’s more to sides to herself than just ‘sporty’.

How does she always manage to include issues that hit close to home for me? I wouldn’t label myself a ‘tomboy’ because I don’t like the label, but I’m definitely less ‘girly’ than average. I played a lot of sports growing up (but less so now), and still feel more comfortable in athletic clothes sans makeup rather than being all dolled up, though I will do so on occasion.  I felt for Charlie as she struggled through living with both her ‘sporty’ and ‘girly’ sides. It’s not an easy balance, and only gets more confusing growing older with guys starting to come more into the picture.

On a side note, this book reminded me of Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian, because of all the brothers! Seriously, Charlie’s brothers were the best. I wouldn’t mind some other companion novels with them in it! West definitely captures what life is like with lots of siblings (trust me, I have 3 of them [and I’m a triplet!]), and what I would imagine having three fun older brothers would be like. From the teasing to the dares and the wrestling, life with siblings is messy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Braden and Charlie are adorable. Can I award them best couple of the year award? (Oh, I should make a list!) They knew each other so well their relationship was second nature — so to have their late-night ‘fence chats’ open up another side of their relationship felt so intimate and special. They knew exactly how to comfort each other when one was feeling out of sorts, and while they still had misunderstandings, they always got past them because they understand each other so well. But they still such a fun pair, never completely letting go of the teasing and pranks they were used to with each other. And their chemistry and romantic tension…wow it was good.

My only complaint was that so many of the serious things started happening near the end that I would have loved to read about throughout the book…I would’ve read a lot more pages of this book, to be honest. Dealing with the loss of her mom comes very near the end of the book, and while I understand that it formed the climax, it would’ve been great to see some more development. But all of Charlie’s issues were wrapped up in the end, so maybe my complaint isn’t all that valid.

A great contemporary that touches on the serious, but is still light enough to make me grin like an idiot.

Review: ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Kasie West

Review: ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Kasie WestThe Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-07-02
Format: Paperback
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Money can't buy a good first impression.

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers learned early that the rich are not to be trusted. And after years of studying them from behind the cash register of her mom's porcelain-doll shop, she has seen nothing to prove otherwise.

Enter Xander Spence—he's tall, handsome, and oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and the fact that he seems to be one of the first people who actually gets her, she's smart enough to know his interest won't last. Because if there's one thing she's learned from her mother's warnings, it's that the rich have a short attention span.

But just when Xander's loyalty and attentiveness are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn't a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she'd ever realized. With so many obstacles standing in their way, can she close the distance between them?

Glowing reviews for Kasie West’s newest novel, On the Fence, have been buzzing around the blogosphere this month, and I’ve just been dying to get ahold of a copy myself. But until then I figured that I could satiate myself by checking out one of her other contemporaries, The Distance Between Us.

I picked this up because I was in the mood for a contemporary, but from the first few pages, I was hooked. Maybe it had just been a while since I read a good contemporary, but I think it was more that that. The Distance Between Us was genuine and funny, hit just the perfect balance between serious and lighthearted, and was just about everything that I think a good contemporary should be.

Caymen has always been wary of the rich, mainly because of how her wealthy father wanted nothing to do with her mother when she found she was expecting Caymen. So as Caymen lives her life trying to help with her mom’s doll shop and ignoring her own dreams, she goes on believing this. But then Xander comes and begins to change her mind about things, leaving her torn between the ‘rightness’ between them and her loyalty to her mother.

One of the main themes of West’s novel was Classicism. Despite her attraction to Xander and the way he makes her feel, she often can’t overlook his family’s immense wealth. She keeps try to characterize him by it, but time and time again he surprises her by surpassing her expectations. But Caymen’s trust is hard-earned.

I really appreciated how the topic of money was approached in this book. While at first Caymen seems justified in her convictions, she still tries to cling to them even as she gets to know Xander. It was hard for her to redefine her view of how the wealthy fit into the world, and a little destabilizing. There are points in the book when she still tries to make critiques of the rich, and it is obvious she is in denial.  She begins to see that “being rich isn’t a character flaw,” and it doesn’t define Xander. West develops her argument surely and without too much one-sidedness, and definitely convince me as a reader.

But The Distance Between Us wasn’t a somber or humorless social critique. The main character Caymen is exceptionally sarcastic, reminding me of myself (or at least, in my head). She provided for quite a few laughs, especially whenever she was in conversation with just about anyone. Her banter with Xander was always a treat to read. But Caymen was also level-headed and had an oversized sense of responsibility, both of which really rounded her out as a character and made me root for her yet also want to help free her. She’s exactly the kind of grounded and common-sense friend I’d want to have, though she’s not averse to fun.

While the author didn’t linger over the world-building, I loved the slow build-up of the story and romance. It felt natural whenever Xander would come by with their morning hot chocolate, or when Caymen was filling orders around the shop. I was somehow never bored by it, which leads me to believe that West just has a knack for portraying normal life. The pacing was perfect as Caymen’s life began filling with problems and Xander became something more to her. Sigh It was a pleasure to read. And though I thought I saw where the plot was going, there were definitely some surprises to keep things exciting.

I have but a few gripes. As is typical with many YA romances, Caymen kept her distance from Xander for a while because she was confused about his relationship status; this is one of my pet peeves. But it didn’t end up being the main issue in the relationship, thank goodness. And then there was the book’s ending. For a book that seemed pretty realistic, I feel the ending may have been a little to convenient and tidy. But really, doesn’t Caymen deserve a happy ending?

I can’t wait to read On the Fence whenever I get it.

Genuine, funny, and the perfect balance between serious and lighthearted.