Category: Young Adult Literature
“Dax Miller wouldn’t have been my first choice of guys I’d want to be locked in a library with. In fact, if I could choose any guy from high school, he’d probably be the last.” –Autumn Collins
I’ve never heard of Kasie West in my life before, or any of her books. And when we first started reading this book in our class, I wasn’t completely impressed by the title or the summary. To me, it seemed like a predictable YA romance literature novel of boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, the end.
Well, to be fair, that’s still the plot, but I was surprisingly hooked on West’s story within the first few chapters. I mean, most YA romance literature novels don’t start with two teenagers getting stuck in a library over a holiday weekend. It’s usually something like getting stuck in nature together or something equally dramatic.
Over the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Autumn Collins and her friends, along with her long-time crush Jeff, decide to head up to a cabin to enjoy the weekend before going back to school. In the chaos of trying to organize rides and get everyone in a car, Autumn heads back into the library for a moment and accidentally gets locked in. Her phone gets left in one of her friend’s cars as they leave her behind in the large, empty library. But Autumn isn’t alone; another student from her school, Dax Miller, breaks into the library for the weekend, giving Autumn some very unusual and unexpected company.
Over the course of the three days together, Autumn and Dax bond over life experiences, teenage secrets, and week-old cake left in the fridge. But once they leave the library, Autumn finds out that a serious accident happened to Jeff over the weekend and that Dax now lives in a group home instead of with his weed-producing foster parents. Faced with the painful situation of Jeff in the hospital and Dax pulling away from her thanks to his new group home, Autumn has to find a way to reconcile her two new worlds together and come clean to her friends about a secret she’s holding for everything to work out in the end.
Like I said, I was surprised by how much West’s story hooked me. Maybe I could relate to being cold in a Provo winter (with the temperatures dropping rapidly in my area, my feet can’t get warm; not even my Canadian husband can keep them warm for long), or maybe it was being able to relate to Autumn. I often left social situations for a breather in high school; it wasn’t until I got to college that I had the luxury of understanding that I had mild anxiety. Or maybe I could relate to chasing the guy of my dreams for a year (spoiler alert: it didn’t work out for us). Either way, I rather liked how By Your Side went, and how the unusual ending for a YA romance novel went. I really enjoyed that part.
I enjoyed West’s more simplistic style of writing. A lot of YA novels tend to get deep into the narrator’s head, almost too much sometimes in romance novels. Most of the time, the characters don’t completely understand what they’re feeling, or know exactly what’s causing them stress, just like real life. And West kept it realistic; we could only understand Dax and Jeff through her perspective, which she admitted was flawed due to her anxiety. Autumn was always painfully aware of her anxiety, and how much of her energy and brainpower had to go into fighting it and keeping it under control.
And what I really enjoyed was that West didn’t write up a perfectly magical ending where Autumn’s anxiety was cured and she immediately got the boy of her dreams. She still struggles with anxiety, and how to deal with it with college coming up, but Dax is someone who accepts her and anxiety without even batting an eye. It’s that kind of unconditional support that gives Autumn the strength, to be honest with her anxiety with her friends, and to start working with it in a more open, honest way.
I was really surprised about how much I enjoyed this book, even if it was predictable in many places. West’s simplistic yet realistic way of writing was fun to read, and Autumn was an enjoyable narrator for the story. The unusual beginning and ending helped synch my attention, and little plot twists here and there throughout the story kept me hooked. By Your Side isn’t a new or excitingly different YA romance story, but it’s a good one and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in YA romance.
Interested? Purchase By Your Side on Amazon!