Review Detail4.6 8
Kasie West is the queen of adorable. I’ve read all of her books and every single one makes me smile at both the romances and the friendships. On the Fence differs a little bit from West’s prior novels, both in heroine and tone. West tackles some darker issues in On the Fence, but manages to keep the tone fairly light even through the darker times. In addition, there’s a stronger focus on family and a bit less of a focus on romance, though that’s definitely an important factor too. On the Fence is a heartwarming novel about a tomboy who goes on a journey of self-discovery.
Charlie doesn’t really know how to be a girl. Obviously, she is biologically, but, since her mother died when she was only six, leaving Charlie with three older brothers and her cop father, she never received an education on womanly ways. Charlie loves to play and watch all sports, but has no interest in clothing or makeup. Her best friends are her brothers (Jerom, Nathan, and Gage) and the family’s neighbor, Braden. She’s the sort of girl who doesn’t know who Jane Austen is and doesn’t understand why a football match should be ended prematurely so a player can go mourn the loss of his grandmother. In fact, this early scene really bonded me to Charlie, since I suffer a similar lack of understanding sometimes.
Certainly, Charlie isn’t the first heroine to be better friends with guys than girls, but she may be the first one I’ve read who doesn’t actively dislike other women. Though she doesn’t understand other girls and is intimidated by them, Charlie doesn’t shame anyone for their way of life, unless they’re wearing text on their butt maybe. Charlie has a really healthy attitude and is very open-minded about the people that she meets. Throughout the book, she ends up bonding with people that she didn’t initially think she’d have anything in common with.
Forced to get a summer job after getting a second speeding ticket, Charlie gets a job at an eclectic little clothing store, close to where both Skye and Caymen from The Distance Between Us work. In different ways, she bonds with her boss Linda and makeup artist, Amber. Both of these characters could have easily been stereotypes, but West builds them out fully and looks beneath the surface. Charlie ends up allowing Amber to put makeup on her for demonstrations and having to dress up nicer for work. At first, Charlie feels like her work self and her sporty self are different people, and she spends the summer getting used to the fact that she has more depths than she ever imagined.
Though she does change her style throughout the book, the message of On the Fence is one of tolerance and open-mindedness. Charlie doesn’t stop loving sports or become some ideal of femininity. She starts wearing prettier clothes and feeling more confident, but only goes so far as she actually wants to and would never let that stand in the way of having fun. The romance plays into this too, as Charlie always thought she was just one of the guys and that none of them could ever actually be interested in her.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The romance is a slow burn, so slow that I am a little annoyed with this trope at the moment. I love it, but also JUST KISS ALREADY. Unlike West’s other couples, these two have a long association. The evolution from friends to love takes place largely during conversations overnight through the fence. Charlie has trouble sleeping because of nightmares about her mom’s death and Braden’s often awakened by his drunk father coming home late. By the fence, they alternately banter (in an adorable game of who knows more about whom) and talk about real things they’ve never discussed with anyone. I only wish I could have gotten to see more of them as an actual couple.
The Final Verdict:
Over this summer, Charlie learns more about herself and finally confronts the psychological trauma of her past. It’s impressive that West manages to deal so well with Charlie’s grief without making the book depressing. If you’re a fan of Kasie West, don’t worry because her streak of amazing is not over. If you’re not a fan yet, you can really start with any of them, but I think this might be my favorite one so far. This one or Pivot Point. Don’t make me choose!