By Your Side by Kasie West
Published by Harper Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary
Format: ARC, paperback
3 Stars, Completed February 15, 2017
– SPOILER free –
By Your Side is a light contemporary about two teenagers that develop an unlikely friendship after they’ve been accidentally locked in the library for a weekend. Dax is the school’s loner with a bad reputation. Whereas, Autumn is a do-gooder that doesn’t notice much beyond her camera’s viewfinder and inner group of popular friends. At first, Dax and Autumn only recall the negative impressions they have of each other and do not get along. But after a few nights of shared vending machine snacks and real talks, both realize that the other is much more than what first meets the eye. They decide to call an amiable truce and soon begin to enjoy each other’s company. And when the pair are finally found and released, the question is after all they’ve shared will they remain friends or will they ignore each other as they had before?
“You’ve definitely been added to the archive the last couple of weeks.”
“What archive?” he asked.
“The happy memories one. The one I’ll draw from in my dark times,” I said quietly.
A smile stole away his hard expression before he wiped it off and pretended I hadn’t seen it. But I had. And it got added to the bank.
Reading this felt like what I would imagine how a cotton candy cloud would feel: fluffy and sweet.
Initially, when I read the premise I was concerned that this would exhibit some instalove. Thankfully, a couple wasn’t born over a weekend. Instead Kasie West makes the attraction between the two leads as natural as possible. She allows Dax and Autumn time to find reasons to fall in love, and this was what made the romance believable.
Another expectation I had was that this was going to be about books or at least incorporate bookish characters since it was set in a library. I mean, how else would people get trapped in one unless they sought out the place to read? Well, to my slight disappointment, one was there for the bathroom and the other used the library as a temporary getaway from a troubling life at home. Between the two, only Dax was a reader, and a casual one at that. Therefore, books (or anything literary for that matter) were seldom mentioned. However, with all that being said, the fact that By Your Side‘s storyline was unbookish didn’t bother me too much.
Actually, there were few things that I didn’t like about my first Kasie West book, but, regrettably, the two (rather big) flaws I did take note of made this drop to the 3 stars tier almost instantly.
Looking past the adorable romance, the characters and plot were greatly underdeveloped.
Autumn would be someone that I’d befriend in real life since we share some similarities-like the fact we’re both rule followers and don’t speak what’s on our mind most of the time. (Plus, we, seasons, have to stick together and all.) However, this doesn’t override my thoughts on how I believe that her character failed to reach its full potential. Her anxiety disorder felt like it was only an adjunct to make her appear three dimensional, but it didn’t display nearly enough depth to fully achieve that. The mental illness just wasn’t portrayed convincingly and didn’t really do much for me. I was also let down by how her connection with photography seemed superficial; I wish that part of her was explored further and played a bigger role.
As for the male main character, Dax was simply okay for lack of better words. Much of his dialogue and contribution made moments more romantic, but I also found his character to be flat and unmemorable. I, honestly, can’t differentiate him apart from the other brooding, bad boys in YA fiction.
And, lastly, the supporting cast was so terrible. I didn’t like anyone from Autumn’s circle of friends, and I especially could not stand the guys. I was perplexed that her friends didn’t notice her absence for as long as they did. I know they’re supposed to be teenagers but the boys were so incredibly childish. And I don’t care what his reasons were but the second love interest’s best friend was an absolute douche.
Alas, yes indeed, you read “second love interest” correctly. There was a love triangle involved albeit implicit. Which brings me along to the last bit I was so unpleased with: it was totally unrealistic how easy the love triangle was resolved by the end. I would have thought that the other love interest would have put up a harder fight, but he didn’t. It was nice that this prevented unnecessary high school drama but his quick acceptance just didn’t feel like an authentic defeat either.
In hindsight, aside from the general romance, By Your Side also doesn’t offer much of a storyline; the trapped in the library plot only exists for the first third of the book and the events that happen after that aren’t as dynamic.
Possibilities don’t hurt as much as realities. Possibilities are exciting and endless. Realities are final.
Anyway, I’m starting to realize I had more problems with By Your Side than I initially thought. But, despite my reservations, this still provided me a good time especially since I was in the mood for something light. And I still think this would prove to be enjoyable for readers that like sweet YA contemporaries or want a fast easy read.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.
Thank you Harper Teen (and the EpicReads booth at Yallfest) for giving me the opportunity to read and review By Your Side. In no way did this affect my reading experience or honest review.