A soap-operatic blend of Romeo and Juliet and My Friend Flicka. Yikes.

DARK HORSES

A troubled teen finds her temporary soul mate in a troubled horse.

At Red's only race, the 3-year-old thoroughbred jumps the track rails and causes a terrific accident. Mr. de Rothschild, a wealthy white man (everyone seems to be white in this book except Luis, a Latino groom), buys him for his troubled 18-year-old daughter, Beatrice, but when, unsurprisingly, she can't handle him, he donates the horse to a therapeutic equine center he has founded. Merritt, 17, arrives there after going on the lam from her private Manhattan school's SAT. Although the patients don't actually ride the horses, Merritt rides Red, and the two form an immediate, unrealistic bond. Without any training the young horse and occasional pleasure rider are suddenly capable of tackling a course of fences. De Rothschild sees dollar signs and shoves the pair into the high-end show circuit, with Beatrice along as groom. Merritt flirts with Beatrice but falls for a dishy boy rider; Red becomes jealous; trouble ensues. The narration alternates in chapters between Merritt and Red, who comes off as an equine version of an abusive boyfriend. Von Ziegesar, known for her Gossip Girls series, nails teen dialogue and horse-show society, but her side characters are all cardboard cutouts, and her plot is a hopeless, melodramatic morass; the horse-as-thwarted-lover aspect feels icky in the extreme.

A soap-operatic blend of Romeo and Juliet and My Friend Flicka. Yikes. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61695-517-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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