A few weeks ago I got home from work too exhausted to do anything so I decided to order a pizza loaded with amazing veggies for dinner. I just wanted a hassle-free night and was willing to shell out a few extra bucks to make this happen even though I was perfectly capable of throwing a haphazard dinner together. The heavenly smelling pizza arrived at my doorstep 40 minutes later and I dug in right away only to discover with bitter disappointment that the bottom crust was very burnt. What looked amazing on the surface turned out to be a complete waste. Likewise, On the Fence is a story that is not unique for its genre but had a lot of potential that was never realized.
On the Fence centers around the life of Charlie (aka Charlotte), a tomboy and athlete who basically condemns anything "girly" or feminine and makes random generalizations about what it means to be a woman. Apparently it's impossible for athletic girls to be considered pretty and Charlie judges other girls because they wear makeup and skirts. Since Charlie's mom died when she was young she never properly learned how to be a girl, which is just a huge load of crap. I liked the fact that Charlie was comfortable with herself (for the most part) and didn't feel the need to wear makeup, but at the same time I don't think makeup is something to scoff at and I honestly didn't learn from my Mom how to wear makeup anyway - my friends played a much larger role in teaching me about makeup and a lot of it was trial and error and in good fun. I also reject the notion that a father is completely clueless on how to raise a daughter. My parents have three daughters and my Dad did perfectly fine with us. Sure, my Mom was probably more involved in some of the more delicate/sensitive parts of our adolescence but that's more due to the fact that she was a stay at home mom and my Dad wasn't at home as much because he had to work. My Dad wasn't oblivious to what was going on and would be the first to help me or my sisters out if there was anything we needed. It just seems really immature that Charlie's Dad was so embarrassed by certain "feminine" things, which apparently includes buying his daughter products like conditioner. I mean, what's so embarrassing about conditioner??? I'm pretty sure some guys use conditioner too.
The story was really immature, full of stereotypes, and overall felt forced to me. There wasn't enough time devoted to developing the romances between Charlie and the two love-interests. The family secret was also a load of baloney. I really don't believe it's realistic for Charlie to forget something that monumental. At one point she knew what happened and suddenly she doesn't and blocks it out even after being told what happened and goes to therapy for it? I understand Charlie experienced a traumatic event, but the fact that all these macho men know this "secret" but thought they were protecting Charlie by deciding to keep her in the dark really irked me. She is treated like one of the boys and is told she can do all the things her brothers can, except for the fact that she's actually a fragile female who cannot deal with her emotions and needs constant rescuing and protection from herself. I just don't have the patience for this kind of story. If you want a solid boy-girl next door romance, read Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins or My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. These books are not without their flaws, but they get more right than wrong.
Oh, and just a side comment: The girl on the cover is definitely not a tomboy.