TITLE: On the Fence
AUTHOR: Kasie West
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen
GENRE: YA Contemporary Romance
FOUND: my Kindle
TIMES READ: 2 (2015, 2017)
READ: 11/23/17 – 11/28/17
RATING: 4/5 stars
The characters were probably my favorite part of the book. I really liked Charlie even though she was a bit of a cliche and clueless. I still found her relatable on different levels. Mostly her awkwardness at being a girl and slowly learning to understand and love herself. She had a lot of character growth over the book which is always a plus. She went from being “one of the guys,” hating her feminine side, and oblivious to life outside her crazy male family to understanding that life is more than sports and being a tomboy, that she was likeable as she is, but there’s nothing wrong in expressing her feminine side. As someone that grew up a tomboy (even if I hate sports), I could completely relate to this.
Another thing I liked about Charlie is how she related to her friends and family. She grew up with three brothers and a neighbor that’s like a brother. You can see how close they are throughout the book. My favorite part, though, is how their relationships are shown through how they act around each other. They’re often antagonizing. Actually more often than not. They mess around and compete over everything. I liked how Braden–the boy next door–isn’t immediately a love interest, although seeing their interactions made me wonder right off the bat because they did treat each other like siblings.
I just found the way they all interacted pretty realistic. I only had one brother, but I remember us being pretty close. Never like Charlie and her brothers, though. And I have five kids of my own. Three of them are teenagers, but they don’t really have friends in common and don’t do things together unless forced. Still, I think close siblings would get along like Charlie, Gage, Nathan, and Jerom.
The stuff that annoyed me about them was how they sometimes treated Charlie–like she needed to be coddled in personal (girly) stuff. They didn’t hold back in sports and competitions, but with emotional stuff, they became super overprotective. Her father was ridiculously self-conscious and inept when dealing with a daughter. And they tended to do the whole intimidate all boys to keep Charlie safe routine.
The plot is pretty typical tomboy finds her girly side. But it’s at least a little more complicated. The characters have some depth which effects the plot. It’s not all about Charlie finding her true love. In fact, her relationship status is such a slow burn, it made it much more satisfying in the end. I hate when the main characters hook up too early (and you know they’ll hook up eventually or it wouldn’t be a romance). The plot showed how Charlie was forced to confront all of the things that were holding her back in life–keeping her stagnant as the tomboy baby sister.
If you like the friends-to-lovers trope, you’re, off course, in luck. There are a lot of tropes going around. Falling for the boy next door. Tomboy girl finds her girly side. Just one of the guys. I’m sure there are many more. I’m a trope addict so all of these are pluses for me. And they’re actually pretty well done. There is a love triangle, but I thought it worked nicely without all of the blatant jealousy even if it was obvious that Charlie was with the wrong guy. It wasn’t over the top.
The one thing I really didn’t like was the whole secret they’re keeping from Charlie because it’s so traumatic she has a nervous breakdown every time it’s brought up. It made Charlie look weak and ridiculous and her family patronizing. Braden is the only one that wants her to know the truth because he thinks she can handle it. Everyone else clams up. Plus, I found the secret somewhat unappealing.
The whole suicidal mother thing was fine, although a little triggery having been a suicidal mother myself. The problem I had is that Charlie remembered nothing of being in the car when her mother killed herself. She only has nightmares to go by and a vague memory of seeing a therapist. She was supposed to be six when it happened. Her brothers all remember the accident and their mother. Even Gage who is only a year older. This is explained by her blocking it all out. It’s pointed out by Braden that they tried to tell her when she was ten but she had a break-down. She doesn’t remember any of this either. Yet she’s not in any kind of therapy anymore and everyone avoids talking about her mother. It just makes her confused and feeling incomplete.
And if I’m honest, I was a little hurt by Charlie’s insistence that her mother didn’t love them enough to stay and was selfish. I can understand feeling that way, but it’s left at that. No one speaks up about how she was sick and did what she thought was best because of her illness. That she wasn’t trying to be selfish. It just contributes to the stigma of mental illness. And that bothers me. A lot. I wish there had been at least one person that told Charlie that it was okay to feel that way but sometimes things aren’t as easy as they seem–that her mother was in a lot of emotional pain and it was unfair to blame someone for an illness killing them.
I guess, at the least, they didn’t reinforce her convictions by agreeing with her. They just brushed it off. And at the end, they did all finally start talking about their mother. The whole secrets situation just bothered me.
I’ve become a big fan of Kasie West. I really like her style of writing and how her characters relate realistically with each other even if the plots are full of silly tropes and cliche situations. The dialogue comes off as natural to me and is full of lots of sarcasm and humor. I didn’t find many (if any) spelling/grammar mistakes and thought the book was really well written. The plot unfolded naturally. It didn’t feel forced for the most part, although there were a few spots I felt things were shoehorned in simply to push the plot forward. But it wasn’t too bad.
For me, this is another win for Kasie West that will be going in my “favorites” pile.
I recommend it to anyone that likes snarky characters, slow-burn romances, and clueless tomboy tropes. It’s a mostly light read, although the secrets kept from Charlie add a bit of seriousness that might be off-putting (especially to those triggered by mentions of mental illness).