On the Fence by Kasie West
She’s a tomboy. He’s the boy next door…
Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she’s got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she’s falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.
1. Let’s talk family dynamic. Being the only daughter with three older brothers and a single father made a huge difference and left a gap in Charlie’s upbringing for a female influence in regards to the more feminine areas of growing up. How big of a difference do you think not having that same-sex viewpoint make in her upbringing? Could her father had made more effort?
Generally, I think having the influence of each parent, male and female, helps to balance things out. In the same way that a girl needs a father to show her unconditional love and affection, she needs her mother to do the same. But of course, being raised by a bunch of guys who know nothing about bras and periods, and who want to strike fear in the hearts of any guy who looks at their daughter/sister…that’s tough to navigate. Charlie definitely needed girls in her life. While no one can truly replace mom, establishing good, healthy relationships with females is something important. As far as her mom is concerned, she sounds like a troubled woman, and as heartbreaking as it is that she’s not around, Charlie may have gotten the most stable upbringing imaginable in what she had with her dad and brothers (I felt for Dad though. Girls are tough!). — Tammy @ YA Crush
I think that a girl growing up without a mother but with a big male influence had a tremendous difference in how her upbringing and how she viewed herself and the world around her. Charlie was treated like another boy in a lot of ways, she was taught to be tough and less sensitive. I don’t think that Charlie should have necessarily been shown more “feminine” ways to do things, but she missed out on having a mom, which is heartbreaking in and of itself. Her brothers missed out on that, too. I do not think the father could have made more of an effort because I do not think his parenting style was lacking. He did make an effort, but he cannot replace her mother. –Daphne @ Gone Pecan
2. Growing up with just male influences Charlie had a heavily skewed view on how to act around both sexes and seemed to be less “sensitive” to others feelings. As she starts to navigate the girl world with makeup and more stylish clothing she is embarrassed and feels like she can’t be both the old and the new Charlie. Do you think this is just a natural insecurity or part of the strictly male influence?
I think it’s a little of both. I think no matter how you grow up, you sort of grow up in your own little family bubble. Once you start to peek outside of that world you always knew, insecurities are bound to arise because you’re venturing out of a comfort zone and that’s the first time you really size yourself up to other people. For Charlie, all she really knew was male influences. She didn’t have her mother any more so she had her strengths which were naturally a bit more “masculine”. I think it’s natural for teenagers to go through patches of physical and social insecurities when comparing themselves to their peers and for Charlie, the whole girly girl/makeup/clothing thing was a bit more exaggerated than most since she wasn’t as accustomed to partaking in the more feminine aspects of growing up. When presented with the opportunity that she didn’t really have before, she was a bit uncomfortable at first and then started to like her new experiences… But she still had to break the news to her family who would have to sort of get used to the idea of a more feminine Charlie as well so it’s perfectly understandable for her to feel awkward about that as well — especially when it’s still so new to her in the first place. —Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide
Both, because her insecurity about gender issues stems from the way she sees herself as motherless and surrounded by men. If she’d just been motherless but had sisters, maybe she would’ve had some of her insecurities but probably not all, because her sisters would’ve provided her with constant female interaction and a sense of what being a “girl” could mean beyond her own experience. But with her unique situation of being the only girl and not having a mother, she has no real sense of the myriad ways girls can be/act and still be secure in themselves. I really felt for Charlie and was happy to see her come into her own. — Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks
3. Charlie’s dad makes her get a job to learn a lesson. Having never had a job things are a bit awkward for her at first, learning how to socialize with other women and what is required for her job. What was your first job and do you have any fun/embarrassing stories or lessons learned?
My first job was a clothing store in the mall. I was 18 and still in high school so I felt really insecure about having my first job! It was hard to work with other girls because… well, they weren’t mean but naturally girls can get territorial and I didn’t have the best managers. (The store is also out of business and has been for a long time so I don’t feel too bad sharing this story!) The managers weren’t really supposed to leave the store when it was just one manager and one sales associate working (since you didn’t usually need more than two people at a time) but one manager always sent me to go get her lunch and I always felt SO awkward doing it. I had another one who would just go get her own lunch and make it snappy so to have to get someone else’s sort of felt like an abuse of power. And just weird. But I also found out that the “bad” manager was stealing money from the register sooooo….. Yeah. Just weird all around. It was even worse when I was afraid of the senior manager and had to tell her I was quitting! My sister had gotten me a job at the real estate office where she worked which was a much better fit and I was SO afraid to tell my manager I was quitting! — Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide
My first job was as a waitress the summer after I graduated. It was a lot of fun, but very hard work because it was a newly opened/built restaurant and we had very long hours learning the menu and setting up the restaurant. I had always been sort of insecure and shy, but this job opened up my world. Talking to people I didn’t know should have been hard for little introvert me, but it really brought me out of my shell and actually helped me a lot in the summer before college began. My favorite story about this job is that, as a new waitress, and in general, I was pretty clutzy. One day, I spilled an entire tray of drinks on the owner’s mother, because I’m me. The lady was so nice and polite and tried to comfort me because I was understandably upset, thinking I may be about to lose my job. From then on, she always asked to be seated in my section and always left a big tip. And I got much better. –Daphne @ Gone Pecan
4. Charlie lies about her mother being alive to her boss and new friends thinking it is easier than saying the truth but in doing so is really only sparing their feelings and making things more difficult for herself. What do you think convinced her this was the easier route?
It’s pretty natural to lie to others about hard truths. I think we convince ourselves that we’re sparing others hurt or anger or sadness, but really we’re trying to spare ourselves these feelings. In Charlie’s case, she was mostly trying to spare herself from having to tell another person her mom was dead and receiving their pitying looks. She didn’t think it would matter as she wasn’t planning on growing close to these new people and staying at this new job for longer than necessary. This is another natural mistake we make. We assume one thing and when it turns out to be something else, we’re caught up in the lies we’ve told (if we’ve told them) because we haven’t been truthful about ourselves. — Candice @ The Grown-Up YA
I don’t think Charlie took this route because she thought it would be easier, I think she did this so that she wouldn’t have to listen to people saying “I’m sorry” or look at her in pity. She didn’t want to be known as the girl whose mother died. It’s that simple. I can totally understand that. You want to be known as your own person. And if she let them know the truth, that is how they will always remember her first. –Daphne @ Gone Pecan
5. Lou, Charlie’s boss, is a very kind and laid back woman who seems to be confident in herself and strives to help others see their potential. She tells Charlie that girls need to “not let boys define how we feel about ourselves” which is a huge piece of advice that more young women should hear at some point in their lives. Why do you think girls rely so much on what others think of them as compared to boys?
As cliché as this may sound, I think it’s our basic instincts to want others to like us and strive to be what others want in order to feel good about ourselves. Even the most self-aware person who has the greatest confidence still looks to others’ on occasion to justify themselves. I don’t think it’s a bad thing in itself; what is bad is when we forget that our opinion of ourselves is the greatest opinion of all. Sure, you may need others, and often rely on them, to tell you you’re smart, pretty, funny, brave, whatever. But if you don’t believe these things about yourself, the opinions of others will mean nothing. I know it’s easy to say that the reason girls, more than boys, rely on others’ opinions is because of media, society, advertising, male dominated society… but I think it’s really more than that. I think a lot of it has to do with confidence. I think there are a lot of things out there that boys are more confident about than girls are. I don’t believe this lack of confidence can be sourced to one specific thing but I think it causes girls to rely so much more on what others think of them. — Candice @ The Grown-Up YA
I think so often we bombard girls with messages about how pretty they are, and with fairy tales about how girls find true love with a prices who wants to marry them after spying them across the forest . Now, I’m not saying any of these things are bad (I LOVE fairy tales and am a total Disneyland fanatic. Bring on the princess stories!). I’ve just caught myself so often telling my own daughters how pretty they are and in recent years have had to ask myself if I also make as much of a conscious effort to tell them how bright they are, to remind them to be proud of themselves. I make a point of doing this now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s human nature to, at a certain point, be aware of what others may think of us, or how they perceive us. In some ways that can be good. We want to be honorable, we want to be hardworking. But to find our value in what others think? That’s tough. In Charlie’s case, I think she was embarrassed to be seen as girly before her brothers and dad because it highlighted the fact that she was different from them. She hid it, but I loved that little by little she learned to embrace both parts of herself and be honest with the guys in her life and with her new-found girlfriends. That’s something that comes with maturity. I can tell you that now, as a grown woman, while I still want to be viewed as kind or intelligent because I want to be known as someone who treats people with love, I care very little what people actually think of me, what I wear, or look like ( the opinions of my husband, my kids, my very close friends/family matter, but that’s really it). It’s quite a relief! — Tammy @ YA Crush
Liked our Roundtable Discussion? Check out the other SC posts!!
Freebie: – Date Day with Charlie and Braden – Brittany @ The Book Addict’s Guide
Author Q & A + Giveaway: – Let’s Chat with Kasie West – Tee @ YA Crush
Review: On the Fence – Candice @ The Grown-Up YA
Page to Screen: Who would you cast in On the Fence? – Sandie & Diana @ Teen Lit Rocks
Thanks to Harper Teen for providing eARCS for review on the SC.