I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.On the Fence by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on July 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
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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.
Very readable and incredibly character driven, On the Fence was the perfect pick for a cold Sunday afternoon. I can’t say that I loved it quite as much as I had expected to based on the slew of 5-star reviews I had seen, but it was definitely a sigh-worthy read that left me smiling at the end.
Our protagonist, Charlie, has an easy, relatable voice that instantly pulls you in. She’s a tomboy, she loves sports, and she’s living with her dad and 3 brothers, plus a neighbour who pretty much lives there, too. That gives us a great, hectic family dynamic that I thought was just wonderful. The brotherly banter, the silliness, their overprotective nature towards Charlie – it’s all super sweet and fun to read. It also gives the book all the more heart. All these characters are carved with distinct personalities and quirks that make them memorable. My favorite is definitely Gage with his sense of humour. Even the dad is awesome and built with a lot of layers. The poor dude is just trying to figure out teenage girls – Lol!! Characters don’t end there, though. We also have Charlie’s co-worker and a new friend (her first girlfriend!) who help Charlie figure out who she really is besides her brothers’ sister. They make her leave her comfort zone and try new things and I liked that about them.
Charlie herself though, while easily engaging and three-dimensional as a character, can be frustrating at times, too. Mostly because she’s so stubbornly oblivious to Braden’s feelings for her. Even when it becomes very obvious, she would think up of dumb excuses or reason it out in a way that kept him out of her reach. Have more confidence, girl! Then instead of just being honest she starts dating this dude who’s totally wrong for her – she needs to be a fake and change who she is to convince herself he likes her. Then we have the whole “she’s gorgeous but she thinks she’s ugly or plain or unattractive” ordeal which always irritates me. All in all, Charlie’s a very well-written character with a compelling voice, but I found myself frustrated with her a lot. I just wanted her to stop putting herself down so much when it came to how she thought others saw her.
There are many layers to this story. Charlie’s mom died when she was little, leaving her with nightmares even after all these years, and of course, lots questions. There’s a story there and it ends up bringing in quite a bit of emotional depth. There’s also her relationship with her father that Charlie feels is crumbling. As if maybe he resents having to deal with raising a girl. Ultimately, though, this is a love story. And it’s a romance that has chemistry flying off its pages. From friendship to romance is one of my favourite love stories so this was just perfect for me. We see her and Braden as best friends, then we see her develop stronger feelings for him. This is obviously confusing and a bit worrisome for her – no one wants to lose such a close friend by turning it into something more, but you just know they belong together so you can’t help but root for them. Their nightly talks at the fence, their easy friendship, the banter and teasing; it all strengthens their connection and we can easily see the love they have for one another. There’s none of the dramatic love at first sight insta-love trope, it’s just… real.
On the Fence is the book to read when you’re in the mood for a light read that still has depth, substance, and a wonderfully sweet love story.
3.5 Hot Espressos