Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"By Your Side" by Kasie West

I've heard a lot about Kasie West over the years—she's a favorite among some of my favorite bloggers—but By Your Side is the first of her books I've read. And while it's not perfect, it's a good one!

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

First of all, let's get this out of the way: the "trapped in the library" portion of the story is boring and, frankly, stretches credulity. I can understand the computers being locked down and the offices being inaccessible—but am I really supposed to believe there's no phone in the break room? That there's no emergency exit? That the bathrooms aren't checked at closing? I can suspend my disbelief, though, for a great story. The problem is that the library portion of this book isn't a great story.

That all changes, though, once Autumn and Dax get out of the library. At that point, the plot becomes infinitely more interesting as Autumn balances her anxiety disorder, her new secret friendship with Dax, and her friends' expectations. This is also the point when the attraction between Autumn and Dax begins to feel real, and the two have some great scenes together.

I really appreciated how Autumn grew throughout the novel, finally trusting her friends with a part of herself she'd been hiding and learning self care, rather than always bowing to people's expectations (to her own detriment).

I wish that the entire novel had been as great as the second half (which kept me reading until 2 a.m. to finish it!), but it still left me with a desire to read more of West's novels. And, as a bonus, this is another clean YA read (I told you about Emery Lord's The Start of Me and You a couple weeks ago)—I can't remember a single curse word in the whole novel, there's no drinking, and the sexual content doesn't go beyond a couple semi-detailed kisses. It's perfectly appropriate for all audiences. 3-1/2 stars.

Buy the book.

Kasie West lives with her family in central California, where the heat tries to kill her with its 115-degree stretches. She graduated from Fresno State University with a BA degree that has nothing to do with writing. Visit her online at www.kasiewest.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and chose to review it. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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