I had read The Distance Between Us before and it was the first book I read that’s written by Kasie West. The book did not disappoint me that after reading it, I decided to buy her succeeding books. Hence, when On the Fence was released, I bought a copy from The Book Depository.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
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 a 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.
Once I got hold of this book, my excitement actually got me tempted to almost drop what I was reading at that moment and read this instead. The situation Charlie (short for Charlotte) was in that’s presented in the book is not new to me, but I was curious how Kasie West would deliver the plotline and make it special to the readers.
I’ve read a few stories and watched shows similar to Charlie’s life story. Surrounded by male siblings and being brought up by a single father, it’s inevitable for the main girl character to dress and act boyishly. In Charlie’s case, she’s being shaped to be tough and athletic. Her built and height don’t portray our typical petite, girly, cheerleader type of girl, so it’s seemingly unusual to imagine Charlie becoming ladylike. As I read through the story, I’m impressed by how Kasie West slowly evolves Charlie to be a proper lady in terms of her choice of clothes. The development is slow and realistic as Charlie is still self-conscious of how the change would affect his family.
Growing up without a mother figure has led to Charlie feeling empty and angry. Her yearning for a loving, caring mother traps her in the past and constant nightmares. Her mother’s death has been a mystery throughout the book. But as the story progresses, revelations and answers start to unravel. These have somehow changed Charlie’s very being altogether.
Charlie’s characterization has been the most dynamic and interesting of all. While she acts boyish, athletic, and tough, her job has opened her to girly things she’s not familiar with and subsequently, helps her gain girl friends and enjoy their company more than she expects. I love that Kasie West portrays Charlie’s family with tight relationship. The bond they share with one another, especially the siblings, is something to look up to. Moreover, it’s fun to witness how Charlie slowly learns the girl stuffs and how she shifts from being girly to boyish and back again, depending on the company she’s with. And finally, the undeniable chemistry between Braden and Charlie is something I look forward to every time they’re together. The moments they share during their conversations at the fence have served as an escape from reality. Their secret rendezvous have also given them an opportunity to know more about each other and be vulnerable. There may have been stepping stones along the way, but I find myself rooting for them all throughout.
Overall, On the Fence does not disappoint. I am entertained from beginning all the way to the end. Although it does not have the same effect on me as The Distance Between Us, I still find myself unable to put the book down. Surprisingly, I finished the book in one day! Kasie West’s writing style surely has lured me in to the story and I got lost in it. The storyline is written realistically with just the right amount of pace. It leaves room for readers to swoon over Braden and perhaps the other male characters as well. At the same time, this book enables its readers to reflect on the self. On the Fence is not just about boys and romance/relationships, but it also tackles one’s journey toward self-discovery and identity.