Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE WILD PATH by Sarah R. Baughman


by Sarah R. Baughman

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-316-42247-5
Publisher: Little, Brown

Legendary, possibly imaginary horses help a Vermont 12-year-old cope with loss and change.

Claire’s 18-year-old brother, Andy, is at a residential facility being treated for an addiction to pain medication. Her mother, an accountant, lost her job several months ago; between that and the cost of Andy’s treatment, her father’s teacher salary isn’t enough for them to continue to keep the family’s horses, Sunny and Sam. For Claire, Sunny and Sam “hold my skin and bones together”—she can’t imagine life without them. Hoping to prevent their sale by winning the school history fair, she researches the historic use of horses in logging and sugaring as well as their current use in equine therapy. When she finds an old newspaper clipping of a long-ago accident in which horses died, she thinks they’re related to the horses she encounters in the woods—horses only she can see. The storyline of Claire’s brother’s addiction, her family’s struggles with it, and her development through a teen support group are all well handled. However, the wild horses feel out of place. Their existence isn’t important to the story in any way, and Claire’s belief in them isn’t all that compelling as a subplot. Claire and her family are white; her best friend is likely Latinx, and a friend from her support group, South Asian. An author's note discusses alcohol abuse and offers resources for young readers.

Read for the sensitive portrait of addiction and its effects on a family, not for the magic horses.

(Fiction. 9-13)