A troubled British teen bonds with a troubled racehorse.
Jay Barton, almost 16, has been living with her wheeler-dealer uncle since her mother died when Jay was 8. She has never known her father. Her uncle lives in the country, with ponies Jay loves to ride and a daughter Jay is close to, but in his house, Jay is Cinderella before the ball—a charity case, an outsider. Worse, Jay’s skill riding racing ponies causes her uncle to drag her into a seamy underworld, where her refusal to lose a race she could win puts her in danger. At a low-level racing stable in Newmarket, she develops a relationship with a well-bred but difficult mare named Manhattan. Eventually—of course, readers know this already—she and Manhattan rise to greatness, although escaping her uncle may not go so smoothly. The story is told through Jay’s first-person narration. Her stubborn persistence and the realistic details of life in a racing barn take this a notch above most horse books. Still, a string of coincidences and a few hokey plot elements—Jay’s search for her father and the benevolent Saudi prince who becomes Jay’s patron chief among them—bring the ending down. The book adheres to the white default.
Starts well out of the gate and has some staying power—but fades a bit over the final furlong. (Fiction. 12-16)