(Image from Barnes & Noble)
As the only remaining girl in a family of boys (one father, three older brothers, one honorary older brother/neighbor), Charlotte "Charlie" Reynolds really can't help being a tomboy. Without a mother around (the car accident that killed her still haunts Charlie's nightmares), there's no one to teach her about the frilly things in life. Not that the 16-year-old wants lessons on how to color coordinate her wardrobe (everything goes with jeans) or correctly apply a bunch of goop on her face (she would sweat it all off on the playing field, anyway). Charlie would much rather spend her time running, massacring her brothers at mud football, and driving too fast along curvy oceanside roads.
It's this last bit that changes things for Charlie. Forced to get a job to pay off her speeding tickets, she begins working at a tony little boutique, which leads her down a path strewn with all the girly things she eschews. Pleasant side affect to acting like a girl? The attention of an über attractive boy who thinks of her as a delicate feminine flower, not a trash-talking jock. Not so pleasant side affect? Having to hide her new-found girliness from the men in her life (they would so not understand). Leading a double life is starting to wear on Charlie—between that and the haunting flashbacks of her mother's accident that plague her dreams, she's going a little crazy. The only thing that helps is her late-night chats with her brothers' buddy, Braden, across the fence that separates their houses. Problem is, the more time she spends with him, the faster she's falling for him. Will Braden ever see her as more than a bratty little sister? And exactly how quick will her brothers pulverize him if he does start coming around? As life grows ever more complicated, Charlie has to decide what she wants—and how much she's willing to risk to get it.
Between its summer-y cover art and July release date, you can probably tell that On the Fence, the newest contemporary YA from Kasie West, is an easy, breezy, beach-y kind of book. The plot never gets too complicated, the themes too dark or the characters too angsty. With an equal mix of the constant ribbing and intense loyalty that defines the best brother/sister relationships, the Reynolds family feels strong and real. Their bond lends the whole story a warm, playful overtone that makes it a happy, hopeful novel. Sure, it's cliché and predictable, but On the Fence is also lots of fun. As long as you don't expect too much depth, you'll enjoy this light, easy read about not just discovering who you are, but also finding the courage to be that person, in spite of the consequences.
(Readalikes: Reminded me of the Dairy Queen novels [Dairy Queen; The Off Season; Front and Center] by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and a little of Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for mild sexual innuendo