The author of Alan and the Animal Kingdom here tells the story of another child taking refuge with an animal friend when human relationships are unsatisfactory: unfortunately, the story is heavy-handed and melodramatic. Jan's mother, a widow who is about to become the first woman partner of any law firm in town, is opposed to Jan's interest in riding (her secretary is permanently disabled due to a riding accident). But Jan, 13, manages to earn money to buy Toby. arrange stabling, trade tutoring for riding lessons, and join the local pony club. When she's hospitalized after an accident, her mother takes the opportunity to demand Toby's sale, only relenting after Toby suffers a bizarre accident and Jan has nursed him back to health. With several interesting subplots (Jan's pretty, achieving sister is their mother's indulged favorite; a couple of boys compete for Jan's unwilling friendship), this will keep both horse-lovers and oppressed teens reading. But although Holland tells her story well, it's poorly motivated. Characters talk at length about the psychological implications of the action, especially the various parent-child relationships (no one comes from a two-parent family), but it's all tell, no show. Jan's mother, especially, is inexplicably stubborn and disagreeable, her turnaround at the end far too abrupt. A clumsy, flawed novel.