On the Fence

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On the Fence by Kasie West
Published in 2014 by HarperTeen

Remember when I said that I was looking into reading Kasie West’s On the Fence and ended up reading The Distance Between Us instead? Well, it’s a good thing that I did! Turns out that the characters in Distance make cameos in Fence, which is post-Distance, thus, giving away the ending of Distance. Anyway, after the glowing review I gave Distance, I’m sure you’ll find it hard to believe that I liked On the Fence even more, but I did! It had West’s same voice and style, but I could definitely see growth in her characters and the emotional depth of the story.

On the Fence is about Charlotte “Charlie” Reynolds, the youngest of four siblings and the only girl. She has three very protective big brothers…and her dad is a cop. (Not exactly enticing for the fellas, eh?) After losing her mother at a young age, Charlie has grown up in a house chock-full of testosterone and is very much a tomboy. For as long as she can remember, next-door-neighbor Braden has just been another one of her brothers, but when they start having late night chats at the fence that separates their yards, things start to change. Especially since they’ve both determined to keep their fence chats a secret.

When Charlie gets a job at a local clothing shop, she starts to discover another side to herself, a side that wears girly clothes and makeup and just might have a crush on the boy next door. But another guy, Evan, swoops in, capturing Charlie’s attention, and Charlie’s three brothers are the least of his worries. It’s Braden he has to watch out for. Jealousies abound as Charlie learns more about herself, including a devastating secret about her mother’s death. Charlie must decide which side of herself she really wants to be (girly or tomboy?) and which guy loves the real Charlie (Evan or Braden?).

Just like with Distance, there is no language (thank you!) and is very appropriate for YA. This novel does have strong emotional content surrounding the death of Charlie’s mother and the abusive nature of Braden’s dad, so I would recommend that the younger YA audience (15 and under) wait a few more years. Though the ending is somewhat predictable, there are surprises along the way. And Charlie’s brothers are very entertaining—they reinforce the desire I’ve always had for an older brother. I really enjoyed this quick read and look forward to reading the rest of West’s works.

The Distance Between Us

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Published in 2013 by HarperTeen

What made me read this book? Well, I was actually looking at another book (On the Fence) by the same author and decided to buy The Distance Between Us first—I can’t remember why. What intrigued me about both books was that the reviews mentioned how clean these books are, and I’m hoping this is a characteristic of the author.

The story is told from the point of view of Caymen (no, she isn’t named after the Islands) Meyers, a seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her single mom above their doll store. It’s written in first-person present tense, which happens to be my preferred POV and tense—it makes me feel like the story is happening as I’m reading it and that I’m right in the middle of the action. Caymen has been raised to think not-so-highly of rich people, so when she meets Xander Spence, a handsome rich boy, she has to decide whether or not her mom’s views should continue to be her own. Xander isn’t just rich, by the way, he’s RICH, and Caymen can’t even afford to have a cell phone. Both Caymen and Xander want to rebel against the expectations their families have for them, so they have “career days” to discover what they want for themselves.

As with most YA novels (The Hunger Games, even Twilight), the hero of this book is significantly more invested in his relationship with the heroine than she is in her relationship with him. While Xander has nothing to hide, Caymen is constantly keeping secrets—including keeping her relationship with Xander a secret from her mom. It takes time for Caymen to realize that honesty really is the best policy, but she wouldn’t be the heroine if she were perfect from page 1.

Ms. West’s site lists The Distance Between Us as “Pretty in Pink meets Pride and Prejudice.” Some similarities I see are: two guys are competing for the heroine’s attention, there’s initial reluctance on the heroine’s part toward the inevitable hero, a fight ensues between heroine and hero that nearly destroys the entire relationship, and everything turns out happy-go-lucky in the end.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. It might be one of the best YA novels that I’ve read in quite some time, and I’m hoping that there is a sequel in the works (or at least the same story from Xander’s POV). It’s a quick read, easy to get interested in (a big factor for me), and retails for $9.99 (or even less on Amazon!). There is no language that I recall (and I was on the lookout), and while there is somewhat detailed kissing, it isn’t graphic in any way. I would let my fifteen-year-old cousin read this (or make her because it is so good!) but not my thirteen-year-old cousin.

So, grab a copy for yourself, and let me know what you think!