Friday, March 31, 2017

Rambling Thoughts: By Your Side

By Your Side

by Kasie West

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

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?

I can't decide how I feel about this book, especially after Kasie's previous project, P.S. I Like You (my review), which was all sorts of amazing.  By Your Side was enjoyable as well, but at the same time, I felt like a lot of it dragged out a conflict that maybe could have been solved a long time ago if Autumn had just talked to her friends.  And while I understand that communication is sometimes not easy, it made me really frustrated every time she put off another important conversation, and then dug herself into a deeper pit of her own conflict.

I suppose it's possible that I just don't really understand if her anxiety has something to do with her need to avoid talking about anything that could potentially make anyone else other than herself upset.

Anyway, By Your Side is cute in its own way, but definitely NOT what I'd been expecting after Kasie's previous book.  The usual dry sarcasm and jokey dialogue I'd associated with her from her first few books (and from P.S. I Like You) seemed a bit dormant in this one.  There were some attempts at humor, and some very light, but none that really stood out.

I admit that I am slightly disappointed, especially since I'd been really looking forward to this book with it's premise of two people getting trapped in the library for a holiday weekend.  But so many things about the entire situation really didn't work for me as much as I'd been hoping.

One of the biggest issues I had with the situation would have been the fact that the two got locked in the library in the first place with no way of getting out, because I would have at least expected there to be some unlocked emergency exit door somewhere.  And then, I also have a hard time believing that there was no phone within sight--I don't know a whole lot of places of business that don't at least have one landline.  My local library has two at the front desk next to each computer.

You know, there are all sorts of safety codes and building codes in place that I think involve having emergency exits and landlines.

Thirdly: Was there no librarian at the front of the building to notice when Autumn rushed back into the library?  I rushed into my library very last minute one day (like exactly ten minutes before closing) to pick up a book real quick, and there were at least three staff members and one security guard at the front entrance.  And the security guard even reminded me that I only had ten minutes before doors were locking.

But setting aside all of those questions I had had about how Autumn even got locked in the library in the first place, I also have some reserves about how quickly she and Dax develop their relationship while they are in the library together.  We spend a whole lot of time in Autumn's head flash-backing on back story between her and her friends and the boy she currently has a crush on.  And while she and Dax do have fun, I don't see any of it so easily leading to her and Dax suddenly being so close in a romance story type of way.  In fact, those flash backs seem to jar you out of the potential romance she and Dax are supposed to be developing.  Although, then we bring into it their continued friendship after they escape the library... and maybe I can accept their slowly developing relationship with the addition of those moments as well.


Not Kasie's best work, and a lot of the story felt kind of rushed as well, and kind of flat.  But much like the rest of her books, By Your Side was enjoyable, entertaining, and a fast and easy read.  I'm sure many could like it mainly because it DOES come off kind of cute in some aspects.

One thing I will give this book extra brownie points for is Autumn's support system.  She has a loving and kind family who take care of her and encourage her to be happy, no matter how hard she tries to make other people happy at her own mental health's expense.  And she has a loving and supportive best friend who is "Team Autumn" all the way, no matter what kind of decisions she would choose to make, such as choosing the "bad boy with a golden heart who stands outside of their friend group" over the "golden boy with childish, jokester personality whom everyone loves who stands within the friend group."  And for that, I DO appreciate this book a lot.

To be honest, I kept expecting By Your Side to twist in one of those typical YA "Best Friend Betrayal" tropes where Autumn finds out that the reason no one came back for her in the library was because one of her best friends diverted everyone on purpose to keep her away from the boy all the girls have a crush on (sort of a "get rid of the competition" kind of plot device)... but that would have been too predictable, and so I'm glad the book didn't go that route.  Instead, her friends are all just a bunch of unobservant airheads who really just forgot about her and hadn't noticed that she was missing... AT ALL.

Nonetheless, again, I really DO appreciate that Autumn had all the positive friendships, both male and female, even if one of the guys turned out to be a childish, jealous prick, which is absolutely a first for me in YA fiction.  I would have never pegged one of the guys being a manipulative, grudge-holding jackass...

And now that I review what I'd just mentioned above, I think it just goes to show how poorly female relationships are depicted in media--that I would have expected one of the girl friends to be the conflict, and was surprised to find one of the male friends being the petty, jealous type.

Color me impressed, but I actually don't mind that too much, except that Dallin's antics just came off frustratingly immature for something beyond Autumn's control.  Then again, this is a young adult world after all, and "frustratingly immature" seemed to be the generalized personality trait for all of the boys in this book aside from Dax, or Autumn's brother, Owen.

While I don't really care for the "petty, jealous, manipulative friend" plot device because it's so overused, I just love that Autumn's female best friends were the ones who were all on her side, no mattering what the situation.  I just wished everyone had more development and personality than simply being "Autumn's best friends."  We absolutely need more positive female relationships in media, especially in YA fiction where I've noticed that it's always been kind of lacking.


On a final note: This book is light and fluffy and simple.  And maybe that's why, while some parts of it frustrated me, I can't find it in myself to truly dislike it.

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