Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West


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Title: By Your Side

Author: Kasie West

Published by: HarperTeen

About the Book from Goodreads

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?

My Thoughts

“I was locked in the library trying not to panic. Literally locked. As in, no escape. Every door, every window, every air vent.”

When I first read the blurb of this book on Goodreads, I thought: trapped in a library after closing time? Yes, please! But that is not how Autumn Collins felt upon discovering she’d been accidentally stranded by her friends at the public library on a long, snowy weekend. She is not alone, though. The high school’s bad boy, Dax Miller, is in for the weekend as well. Going into this book, I was prepared for another cliché of good girl meets bad boy, they fall in love and live happily ever after… I was wrong. I think of all Kasie West’s books this is by far the most meaningful one she’s ever written. All of the elements that make up a West book are present but the subjects explored in this book are deeper ones, such as acceptance, mental health and trust issues. 

“Possibilities are exciting and endless. Realities are final.”

Our main character, Autumn, suffers from anxiety attacks and as an outgoing student and part of a big group of friends oblivious to her disorder, she struggles with her mental health, scared of prioritizing it and all the while striving to maintain an illusion of ‘normalcy’. Dax, on the other hand, is a troubled teenager, a victim of abusive parents, and values independence – from school, friends, and the system – above all else. 

“The was something very satisfying about a smile that had to be earned.”

Dax and Autumn complement each other in a way most characters in YA contemporary novels never do. In other books, the characters seem to be written for each other; they come to life in the author’s imagination to fall for each other and end up together. In By Your Side, both Dax and Autumn are very much their own person and as a reader you root for them individually rather than solely as a couple. 

The pacing, the way the characters interacted, how we got to know more about both Autumn and Dax’s reality, and the gradual (and absolutely amazing!) character development throughout the book was executed beautifully by West. 

“It was hard to remember what I’d been so scared of. Being treated differently? Lack of acceptance? I was the one who hadn’t accepted myself for who I was.”

I recognize that I resonated with some of Autumn’s challenges – namely the way her anxiety and relationship with her friends interacted with each other, and the difficulty she had handling them – so that this book might hold a deeper significance to me, as well as a longer lasting impression, than it might have on other readers.

” Are you ready for this ? ”
” What?”
” Commitment”
” You make it easy”

By Your Side is easily my favorite Kasie West book and one of my top five YA contemporaries novels out there.

Final Verdict

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