A young Nebraskan horse trainer and her friends try to thwart misdeeds by the ranch’s new head trainer in this adventure novel.
Kara Springs is almost 9 when she begins doing chores at a barn in exchange for riding lessons, hoping someday to make a living training horses. Eight years later, she begins apprenticing with the head trainer, George. After he suddenly quits and moves to California, Kara finds that his replacement, Ryan Jackson, has very different ideas about how to treat horses; in fact, he may be abusing them, using drugs and other means. However, the ranch owners, awed by having a member of the famous Jackson family of trainers in their midst, leave the operation in Ryan’s hands for a year as they look after their pregnant daughter. Kara and her friends gather evidence to prove that horses are being mistreated and try to find a way to rescue them. In her debut, Marentes offers an appealingly brave, resourceful and compassionate lead character with an important task to accomplish. Other, secondary characters (including the horses) appealingly add to the story. Animal lovers may find some scenes unpleasant to read, but Marentes doesn’t shamelessly tug heartstrings. Instead, she vividly describes details of ranch life and horse training, although she could have added some explanations for unfamiliar terms, such as a “Saddlebred.” Readers also don’t find out exactly where the ranch is located until Page 100. The novel effectively complicates the plot with more and more elaborate escapades, but all the postponements may begin to feel contrived, as when Kara loses evidence or fails to get it at a crucial moment. When the plans finally come together, however, the novel provides a satisfying denouement.
An often entertaining, suspenseful novel that may particularly interest readers who love horses.