cover image Dark Horses

Dark Horses

Cecily Von Ziegesar. Soho Teen, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-517-5

Gossip Girl author Von Ziegesar turns her attention to the competitive horse show circuit. Seventeen-year-old loner Merritt Wenner, still mourning her grandmother’s unexpected death a year ago, resorts to destructive behavior that gets her self-absorbed parents to seek help for her at an equine therapy program in Connecticut. There Merritt meets Red, an unruly former racehorse. Riding together cements their bond and leads Merritt to train and compete with Red alongside an attractive Californian named Carvin, with Beatrice, an unstable teen, as Red’s groom. Alternating narratives switch between the viewpoints of Merritt and Red, the latter an unusual choice that doesn’t entirely pay off: while it foreshadows the dangerous extent of Red’s intense feelings for Merritt, his frequent invoking of misheard song lyrics (“We were an island in the stream. Sweet dreams were made of bliss”) and other anthropomorphized commentary tends to grate as the plot intensifies. Still, Von Ziegesar’s knowledge of equestrian competition and the compelling pairing of a troubled horse with an equally scarred teenager make this an engaging, if somewhat predictable read. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Eric Brown, Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo. (Sept.) [/em]