By Your Side by Kasie West
Published by: HarperTeen on January 31, 2017
Review Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Plot: The last thing in the world Autumn wanted was to be locked in a library for three days with Dax, the school outcast.
Review: There was so much to like about this one, but it did get my cardigan in a bit of a twist. Before I give you the scoop, a quick warning: there are some minor spoilers, so read at your own risk.
- Dax totally made the book for me. He was charming and felt fully realized as a character. More importantly, West uses Dax’s situation in the book to talk about something incredibly important: teens in foster care. One of the hardest conversations I have ever had as a librarian was when a social worker from DCF came to me for help. She was specifically seeking resources to help teens who were aging out of the system find employment. The stories she shared with me about what their lives are like and the hardships they have to face had me in tears. Here is a simple but effective info-graphic from Foster Club just to show you a few:
The odds are truly stacked against teens who age out of foster care, but books such as By Your Side can do a lot to turn the tide. They can start a conversation, remove any negative stigma that surrounds those in foster care, and most importantly give those in that situation a kindred spirit. I can’t even begin to fathom how hard it must be for any child to go through an experience like that, but I do know that change often happens because of awareness. I have so much respect for West’s choice to shine a light on this topic.
- Autumn isn’t perfect; she’s real. Dax isn’t the only one going through some things. Autumn suffers from an anxiety disorder that often pulls her away from friends and activities. Her disorder is also something that she has kept from her friends for fear of rejection. While Autumn might feel whiny to some, she also came across as completely believable and sincere. Most teens that I know would not be forthcoming about something like this, and West does a solid job of articulating the silent struggle that many with anxiety go through. Autumn’s desire for peer approval, the moral dilemma of choosing between Jeff and Dax, and her eventual self-acceptance felt very true to life (even if the circumstances were a bit fantastical).
- The Message. For me, the ultimate message found here is one of acceptance. YA fiction has a tendency to magic wand situations, where one radical change is the seamless catalyst for a happy ending. I liked that no one really changes, but instead they make peace with the imperfection that is life.
- The Library. Full disclosure, I’m a librarian. A public librarian. Who closes the building at least 3 days a week. No one ever gets left inside. I know it’s a work of fiction, but West’s library lock-in was a bit far-fetched.
Final Hoot: Overall, I enjoyed the read and can see this one being a hit.
Rating: 4 out of 5 hoots
Who Should Snag It: Fans of Jenny Han or Morgan Matson will like this one.
*I would like to thank Edelweiss and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*