Tuesday, January 27, 2015
On the Fence by Kasie West
HEADS UP! Even though you don’t need to read Ms. West’s previous book, The Distance Between Us, you will recognize some characters and places from this book.
Sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds is known as Charlie to everyone. With three older brothers, Gage, Jerom and Nathan, and raised by a single father, she knows more about being a boy and sports than being a girl. Braden Lewis, the boy who has lived next door for the past twelve years, is like brother number four. As an only child with a verbally abusive father, he is always hanging around. He and Gage are best friends. Her mother died when she was six and her dad has never remarried. She and her brothers are ready for summer break to begin. When their father comes home from work in a bad mood, he only has eyes for Charlie. He isn't happy that she received another speeding ticket and didn't tell him. As punishment, he is going to make her pay for not only this ticket but the last one as well, plus the extra cost in Insurance. Not having that kind of money, her dad tells her to get a job. She refutes that a job will interfere with sports practices and camps. He tells her that she will have to figure that problem out because he isn't backing down.
Gage goes to Old Town with Charlie to look for a job. He is scoping out the girls while she picks up applications. Charlie goes into one store and meets Skye Lockwood. Skye isn’t hiring but she sends her down two doors to Linda’s Bazaar, a clothing store. Linda will put her to work Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as Saturday mornings for a total of eight hours. She knows that Charlie really isn’t interested in a job and that she was put up to this. Linda tells Charlie that she will need some better clothes for work. She will help her pick them out and her first two week paycheck will cover the cost. On Charlie’s first day, Linda gives her all kinds of outfits to try on. Charlie doesn’t feel comfortable and Linda decides on what she will wear. Charlie trains for her job and at the end of her shift, she changes back into her old clothes. Linda asks her why but Charlie doesn’t tell her that she doesn’t want her father and brothers to see her this way. Linda thinks her mother would like to see her dressed up. Knowing how Linda “mothers” Skye since her mother left her when she was young, Charlie doesn’t want to see her pity when she tells her about her mother. She lies and says that her mother is a tomboy like she is.
That night, Charlie has a nightmare about the car accident that killed her mother. Not wanting to go back to sleep, she heads out to the backyard. At 3am, she is surprised to witness Mr. Lewis just coming home. Not long after, lights in the neighboring house come on and the yelling begins. She is stunned when the back door flies open and Braden comes out. Charlie watches him through the slats of the fence that separate the two yards. She speaks to him and he think it is Gage. He comes over to the fence and finds her. He sits with his back to the fence and Charlie does the same. They begin by talking around the events that led them to the fence and the conversation soon turns into a competition of sorts about how well they know the each other. Charlie realizes that even though Braden is her brother’s best friend, she really doesn’t know everything. The competition ends when his dad starts yelling again and Braden starts to head back inside to see if he can get him to go to bed. As he is leaving, he tells Charlie that their conversation isn’t over and that he will be victorious in the end.
At work, Linda tells Charlie that she is thinking about selling makeup in the store. The distributor wants to hold a class on Saturday to drum up business. Linda thinks that Charlie will be the perfect model and will split any commission she makes with her. Charlie reluctantly agrees thinking that she can quit sooner with the extra money she could make. Since Charlie is underage, her mother or one of her parents will have to sign a liability form. Linda says that she should invite her mother to the class. Feeling guilty, Charlie continues with her lie and says that her mother is working on Saturday. She comes home to find her “four brothers” playing a game inside the house. Braden grabs her as she comes in and tells her what is going on. They need to keep quiet so as not to be found. With her pulled up against him, Braden can smell the perfume that Skye sprayed on her. Charlie notices how close they are before Gage tells them that if they were playing the game, they would both be “dead” by now. She is shaken by how close they were touching.
Working two nights a week interrupts Charlie’s running schedule and hence her ability to sleep fitfully from pure exhaustion. Charlie and her father are awkward around each other when they are alone and girl stuff needs to be discussed. Not wanting him or her brothers to know about the makeup class, she forges her mother’s signature to the consent form. Looking out the window, she sees that Braden’s light is on in his room. She send him a text to see if he wants to meet for a fence chat. Sitting back to back against the fence, Charlie tells Braden that she is feeling guilty about lying to her boss without telling him what she has lied about. Braden tells her that it is okay unless it is something that will continue to eat at her. They return to their competition/conversation and Braden mentions that Charlie doesn’t like girls who wear certain articles of clothing. She tells him that it should be a rule not to date someone like that. Braden comments that she has never given him dating advice before. Charlie admits that she knows the type of girls he would date and Braden thinks that she doesn't know what type of girl he wants to date. Charlie tries not to read anything into it.
The makeup class is a success but Charlie cannot wait to take it off. Amber, the distributor, invites her to lunch with a couple of her friends, but she begs off. Amber will not take no for an answer next week. Linda takes a photo of Charlie’s makeup to take home to her mother before she wipes it off. Looking at the photo at home, Charlie is shocked to see that she looks just like her mother’s wedding portrait hanging in the hallway. She hides the photo when Gage bursts into her bedroom. Gage says that he will find out what she is hiding one day. The next night at work, Linda presets Charlie with a check for her cut of the commission. She says that it was such a big success, she has printed fliers when Charlie’s photo on them to advertise. Charlie hopes that no one will recognize her.
Will Charlie find the courage to ask her family about her mother’s death? How does Linda discover the truth about Charlie’s mother? What does she say to Charlie? Does Charlie become more comfortable with the feminine side of her or will she just always be a tomboy? What happens when the men in Charlie’s life discover what she is doing for her job? Will they finally see Charlie as a young woman? And will Charlie be able to admit her growing feelings for the boy next door and will he feel the same way?
Visit Kasie West’s website.