Befriended: Discussing Sibling Friendships with Kasie West

When a book is infused with a strong helping of sibling relationships and parental involvement, I’m sold. Those are two strong bonuses for me because they add a layer of realism to the story. But Kasie West took my love a step further by making the four siblings in On the Fence the closest, most tight-knit group I’ve read about in a long, long time. I immediately reached out to Kasie to ask her if she would discuss big families and close siblings with us for our Befriended feature. Kasie has four children which equates lots of personal experience to draw from. Please allow me to introduce Kasie West, author of On the Fence, in bookstores as of July 1st.  — M.


kasie west on the fence

I grew up in a large, very close-knit family. I have two brothers and two sisters. Even though a lot of times we fought and screamed and tattled on each other, we always laughed and played and loved each other more. We were loud and rowdy. We ate dinner around the table every night. Because there were seven of us, and money was tight, we actually had a picnic table as our dinner table. So often times we could pile twelve people on those benches, between us and our cousins or friends. Elbowroom was nonexistent but conversation was abundant. I know I am truly blessed to have a family as close as ours and brothers and sisters who I consider friends.

So writing Charlie and her three brothers in ON THE FENCE came really naturally to me. It was probably the easiest family relationship I’ve written in any of my books. I’ve been so happy to see that readers have enjoyed this dynamic between Charlie and her brothers. I think siblings are the first friends we have. Through them we learn about fighting and making up, about being selfish and selfless, about not always seeing things the same way as someone else but loving that person regardless. They’re the first people we whisper late into the night with. My sister and I had bunk beds for a lot of our childhood and I still remember staring at the slats above me and talking to her way past our bedtime. Siblings can truly be the first best friends we ever have and that friendship can last a lifetime. I love mine dearly.

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Book Recommendations from Kasie With Strong Sibling Relationships:



Thank you so much for stopping by Rather Be Reading, Kasie!

Friends, I cannot encourage you enough to buy On the Fence. You won’t regret it!

Magan: On the Fence by Kasie West

Book Cover On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence by Kasie West (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: The Distance Between Us
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, athletic female, single-parents
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)

Summary: Super athlete Charlie finds herself having middle-of-the-night conversations with her next door neighbor, Braden, whom she’s always considered to be like a brother. Neither of them can sleep and find solace in discussing things (such as who knows who better) between the fence posts when no one else is around.


First impressions and crazy thoughts that went through my head about On the Fence:

  • Holy crap this is so so so so so so so good.
  • I love the relationship between the siblings. There are four of them. Hmm. Would Dustyn want four kids? I want my children to grow up close and protective of one another like them. (Truth: I did talk to Dustyn about this possibility after finishing On the Fence. Second truth: I’ve never considered having four kids before. I’ve always had a “we’ll see what happens” mentality.)
  • Whyyyyyyy did it have to end? I just wanted to keep reading forever and ever.
  • Must. Preorder. Finished. Copy.

Cohesive thoughts to justify my fangirling:

Sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom is a copy of The Distance Between Us. Estelle loved it last year; she recommended we all buy it. So I did. And I’ve had nothing but the best intentions for wanting to read it since then. Yada yada yada — I was pregnant and a foster mom and blah blah blah — fast forward to now. As we were discussing the review books we had to read, Estelle suggested I be the one to read On the Fence. (I think she knew I needed something REALLY good to pull me out of full-time-mommy-mode so I could enjoy some much needed reading time.)

And crap. Now I’m 100% irritated with myself that I haven’t read TDBU because I feel like I have sincerely missed out on greatness. Kasie’s writing in On the Fence is undeniably fantastic. Within a few paragraphs, I was hooked and completely ignoring all life responsibilities. (Don’t worry; Everett was already in bed for the night.) Charlie is the youngest sister to three older brothers (four brothers if you count their neighbor, Braden, who practically lives at their house); she’s tough and fast and very un-girly. She’s eager to hop into a football or soccer game. She doesn’t expect the boys to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. Charlie’s never had a boyfriend, but her brothers would give any guy she brought around the third degree. Her brothers are her best friends.

When Charlie finds herself with another speeding ticket (oops?), her father forces her to get a job to pay him back for it (and the others). The place she finds unemployment is very un-Charlie-like with clothes she’d never be caught dead wearing in front of her brothers and makeup she doesn’t know how to use. Despite her anxiousness to do her time and pay her dad back, she finds herself becoming friends with girls she never would have expected to and creating outfits she didn’t know she was capable of.

But Charlie also has this other thing: she doesn’t sleep well at night. She stays as active as possible so she is completely worn out when she goes to bed in hopes that she’ll have a good night of sleep. More often than not, she finds herself awake in the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, she soon realizes that Braden is up at strange hours too. They find themselves outside on either side of a fence, having candid conversations about things they’d be too shy to discuss in the daylight. (Swoon.)

On the Fence has every element I desire in my books: family background, strong friendships, a believable relationship, a great sense of time and fantastic pacing, and a strong setting. I became so wrapped up in Charlie’s life that I felt they were real. I wanted to know these people. I wished I could visit them and watch Charlie kick ass in a football game. I greatly admired Charlie’s dad and how protective he was of his baby girl, but also how hard he tried to be the parent he needed to be for her, especially with the absence of her mother. Every aspect feels so perfectly authentic and real; I laughed out loud and I really never wanted On the Fence to end. I think it’ll be topping the charts as a 2014 favorite for me.

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Estelle: Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reality Boy by A.S. KingReality Boy by A.S. King ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: reality TV, anger management, family dynamics
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA.

Summary: A small part of Gerald’s childhood was documented on Network Nanny, and 12 years later, he is still tormented by classmates, his family, and his own insecurities created by his “Crapper” legacy. Will he ever be able to leave all of that behind and find a place where he can feel at home surrounded by people who care?

I did it! I finally read my first A.S. King book and I am so very glad that I did.

I’m not much of a reality show fan (unless there are spray tans, sequins, and live bands involved) so before I even started Reality Boy, I felt a certain disdain for Network Nanny — the show that Gerald and his family were on 12 years ago. The episodes, featuring an English “nanny” who was sent to their home to help them maintain discipline and some kind of familial happiness, cut and paste Gerald’s childhood for the maximum entertainment of the audience, and that continues to haunt him after the last camera leaves his home.

I really love reading books from a male’s perspective (why is it so rare?) and Gerald’s voice was so unique because he was just SO angry that people could not forget that he was the one who crapped in people’s shoes or in their beds (ew, true story) when he was just a little kid acting out over the injustices in his house. Seriously, the dynamic in the Faust home is majorly messed up. Parents who do not get a long, a troublesome older sister who gets everything she wants, and two younger siblings who are the victims of her unnecessary rage.

No wonder why Gerald felt alone. He felt zero support from his mother who was perfectly okay with him being in special ed classes when he didn’t need to be, his sister was not only physically abusive but verbally, and his father just couldn’t stand up to anyone, even for the sake of his son’s safety or happiness. It’s no wonder Gerald has a to take a trip to his “happy place” filled with ice cream and Disney characters just to feel some sense of calm.

Then there is Register #1 girl a.k.a. Hannah who works with Gerald serving food at sporting and circus events. She’s sort of quiet and keeps to herself, writing in a little notebook. Gerald has a major crush on her, and their budding friendship is seriously the best thing in his life in just about forever. Like him, she is fed up with her home life but for entirely different reasons. There are a lot of growing pains between the two, and it’s interesting to see how both of their situations affect how they treat one another. Can they overcome all their drama?

Reality Boy focuses on some super serious subject matter; it’s true. But the short chapters make the entire book incredibly fast-paced and even though there was times I was very scared thinking about what Gerald could do to himself or to others, I was so intrigued by his voice. King is a fantastic writer, and I really love all the tough dynamics she brought to the surface. It’s really hard for any young person to decide to put themselves before their family. It’s just not the way things should go. Parents should care about their kids, treat all of them equally, and not ignore problems. But unfortunately, this happens. I was so interested to see if Gerald could find it in himself to move forward, and who would be on his team in the end.

(From the reality TV standpoint, it’s super discussion-worthy to wonder about the consequences of this form of entertainment. How kids will feel when they are adult, and never having any control or say as to what their parents put on TV. We want to be able to trust the adults in our lives but sometimes they don’t always make the correct decisions for us. Wouldn’t this be great to chat about in book club?)

I’m looking forward to checking out more of King’s work pronto.

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