Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On the Fence

On the Fence Kasie West does contemporary YA romance as well as just about any author I can think of--she ranks right up there in the company of Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith (okay, she's not quite Rainbow Rowell, but I can live with that). Her books are sweet, funny, and filled with normal characters who have generally healthy relationships but still imperfect lives.

Charlie (Charlotte) Reynolds has grown up with three older brothers, a neighbor (Braden) who might as well be a brother, and a doting dad. And while Charlie is an outstanding athlete, sometimes she wonders if she missed out on the feminine touch her mom might have brought. When Charlie gets a job at a downtown boutique to pay for speeding fines, she's convinced she's entered an alien world of makeup, frilly clothes, and other girly things she's never really understood.

But to her surprise, there are elements of this girl-world that she enjoys (including friendship with other girls), and as long as she can keep this a secret from the guys (she's not sure she can stand their ridicule) she's good. There's even a boy who might be interested in her. Of course, first she has to figure out how to reconcile all these new, good things with the confusing feelings she has for the boy-next-door, Braden, who clearly only sees her as his friend's little sister.

I thought the friendship-based romance here worked well, and I loved that Charlie was able to experiment with new things (makeup!) without losing the essence of who she was. And West does an excellent job of including just enough darkness (what actually happened with Charlie's mom, and why won't anyone talk about her) to keep the fun, fluffy romance grounded. Perfect summer read.

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