Does Tessa ride an aging, longshot Buffoon to victory in the Grand National? Of course—even a thoroughly modern...



A heroine who takes pride in her ability to get thrown out of schools updates an old-fashioned girl-and-her-horse story. 

Veteran author Peyton (Snowfall, 1998, etc.) presents Tessa, whose life is forever changed when her mother walks out on her drunken horse-breeder father, wrenching Tessa from the love of her small life, a blind broodmare. Eight years and several schools later, a thoroughly rebellious Tessa finds herself engaged by her vicious stepfather to work at a local racing stable, where she takes on as a charge Buffoon, the ugly colt of her beloved mare. Only Tessa has faith in Buffoon, a faith that is repaid when Buffoon becomes a contender in the Grand National—against her stepfather's own horse, prompting a nasty bit of sabotage. And this is only the first half of the book. A leisurely pace accommodates the twists and turns the novel takes, including Tessa's (unsuccessful) stabbing of her stepfather, a stint in a juvenile reformatory, the loss and rediscovery of Buffoon, and not one, but two, miraculous operations, one on the jockey Tessa comes to love and one to restore a blinded Buffoon's sight. Compelling storytelling, fascinating details of the English racing scene, a heroine with real psychological depth, and a well-rounded cast of secondary characters (with the exception of the wholly odious stepfather) carry the plot without missing a step over its contrivances to a satisfying steeplechase finish. 

Does Tessa ride an aging, longshot Buffoon to victory in the Grand National? Of course—even a thoroughly modern girl-and-her-horse story needs to follow the rules. Does this matter? To a lover of good girl-and-her-horse stories, of course not. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46652-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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An earnest examination of mental health in sports.


Sixteen-year-old Gus Bennett lives in the shadow of his older brother, Danny, a former Olympic swimming hopeful who recently died by suicide.

Gus does not have an easy home life: He has a strained relationship with his mother, a single parent who’s still struggling after Danny’s death; and his older sister, Darien, has a drug addiction and abandoned her now 18-month-old child to the care of their mother. But Gus hopes to train with Coach Marks, the renowned trainer who worked with his brother. He even sneaks into the country club to get access to the pool, willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He has his eye on qualifying for the national team and seems poised for success, but he soon experiences a downward spiral and engages in reckless behavior. Although the side characters are underdeveloped, Gus’ first-person narration carries the story along smoothly. Conceptualized by the late Academy Award–winning basketball player Bryant and written by Clark, this emotional novel contains lyrical prose that beautifully captures the energy of swimming and short chapters that will keep readers engaged. Physical descriptions are limited, suggesting a white default, but naming conventions suggest some diversity among the swim team members.

An earnest examination of mental health in sports. (resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949520-05-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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