Stevie has just spent the school year in Tulsa with her aunt and uncle, and she's now headed home to Antler for what she's sure will be the best summer of her life. She's made plans to compete in every barrel race she can manage, and she's eager to see her older brother and her horses again. She's ready to put a recent tragedy behind her and focus on the fun and adventure that will comprise her summer. Unfortunately, things don't always work out as we plann. From arriving home a few days late (because her dad can't be bothered to come and get her), to a surprising new friendship and an unexpected injury, Stevie is quickly finding out that this summer isn't all that she expected. Maybe, just maybe, it's more. Along the way, she finds out some surprising things about her family, her horses and, most importantly, about herself.
In my review of another of author David Michael's books, "The Summoning Fire," (read that review here) I commented that I was sure I'd enjoy his work in other genres as well. Luckily, I was right. I delighted in this journey of a girl coming to terms with uncertainty and loss by ignoring all that makes her uncomfortable, and focusing on her dreams for the future. Along the way, she discovers that she must face her past before she can look forward to her future. She can't fully be herself without acknowledging that she is who she is because of where she's been. With her horses to help her cope in unexpected ways, Stevie matures into a young woman who is more whole, and no longer just a sum of her parts.
The writing is engaging, as is the storyline. The prose is very readable and perfectly combines maturity and young adult appeal to make it a good read for all ages. I must admit that I've never been the type of girl who dreamed of a horse of her own. In fact, I am not really a horse fan in general. I've ridden a horse exactly twice, and I distinctly remember a few tears (or maybe more than a few) of fear each time. Even with my clear lack of interest in anything equine, something in this story still reached out to me. I think we can all relate to the difficulties involved in change, loss, and in just plain growing up. I was thoroughly engaged in the story- enough that I even cried a few tears of my own along the way. Life doesn't always work out the way we plan, and this story included just the right amount of emotional conflict and growth to keep me entertained and engaged the whole way through.
The characters rang true and were well-defined, for the most part. Stevie's character is quite complex and the author does a nice job mimicking teenage angst. However, some of Stevie's actions and words seemed to repeat in ways that smacked of redundancy. For example, there was a scene with Travis that I read and immediately thought "didn't I just read this scene?" because of a very similar scene happening shortly before. Mechanically, there are a handful of errors in the book, including a few places where an entire word appears to be missing. Not a big detraction, but noticeable, nonetheless.
Altogether, a great example of a touching and entertaining young adult novel that brings the reader through a gamut of emotions to an ending the satisfies.
4.5 /5 stars
Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble