Powerful writing propels a well-plotted horse story in Lyne’s impressive debut.
Sidney Criser might still be 14, but that doesn’t stop her from driving the junk car her uncle gave her an hour over mountains to clean stalls at a rich woman’s barn. Sid grew up tough, and she can ride anything, but times are desperate: Since her father’s death, her mother has taken up with a no-good abuser who threatens to move them to California. Her mother’s lost her job, and her mother’s brother, her uncle Wayne, who’s long been Sidney’s mainstay, is just about to drink himself to death. Nothing’s easy in their hardscrabble mill town. The other half of Virginia, where pedigreed horses sleep in “nest[s] of pine shavings,” has the horses Sidney longs for, but she’s cleareyed enough to see that rich people have problems, too, just like her classmates destined to work in the mill. "I know that sounds mean and angry, but I’m not either one. We have a life to live that could stop any minute, and I guess I can’t believe this is how some people want to spend it. It makes me sad as hell." Everything comes together here—setting, dialogue, horse details and, most impressively, voice—so that the near–fairy-tale ending works; like the rest of the book, it feels absolutely true.
A standout. (Fiction. 14 & up)