Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins (Review)

Release date: June 15 2014

Publisher: Tudor Robins 

Number of pages: 244

My rating: 4/5

Note: an Appaloosa is a breed of horse.

As soon as I see a book about horses, my expectations immediately drop to the ground; I’ve just read too many bad ones. You know the ones: an important competition, a rich girl who is weirdly competitive, and then the main character always wins everything.

Thankfully, this was not one of those books.

After losing her beloved horse Major at a jumping competition, Megan is heartbroken. She goes to an island off the coast of Canada to work for two family friends at a bed and breakfast. She meets a guy on a tractor named Jared, and ends up getting an appaloosa named Salem in return for working cattle. Megan must train Salem to compete in a show jumping competition.

Ok, I admit it: my above description of the book is pretty poor. Don’t be fooled though, it’s a lot better than what I just made it sound like.

I loved Megan and Jared. They were both awesome people on their own, and even better as a couple. Their romance was believable and gradual; it didn’t come on too suddenly or seem forced. Both had some emotional baggage after losing an important individual in their lives. The minor characters were also pretty great, especially Megan’s mom.

Also, despite Megan and her friend Slate riding at an upper-level horse barn in the beginning of the book, there are no mentions of a snooty rich girl. Megan and Slate are actually quite down to earth, even though upper-middle class or well off characters that ride horses are typically portrayed as self-absorbed and mean in teen horse books. Hooray! Not all characters who can afford to ride at a fancy-ish barn are total bitches!

Additionally, the setting in this book was amazing. It was set on a relatively small, unnamed island near Canada. There was a real sense of community between all the characters that was sweet and heart-warming. Also, I honestly hope that the island in the novel is real or based off a real location because I just want to move there!

The horse related content in the novel was good. It doesn’t go too in depth or use too much fancy jargon, but a satisfactory amount of the book focused on horses (and not just romance or petty arguments like some other horse books!). However, a non-horsey person might not completely understand what is going on, so if you don’t know much about horses, brush up on your knowledge before reading!

One part of the novel I truly applaud Tudor Robins on is her handling of Megan’s loss of her horse. There was an appropriate amount of grieving on Megan’s part. Her feelings regarding Major were totally believable, and I just loved the way that she handled her loss near the end of the book. I won’t spoil it for the people who haven’t read this book yet, but the way that Megan says her final goodbye to Major and lets go of something very precious is an incredibly sweet and mature thing to do.

Despite all my praise towards the book, there was a portion of it that annoyed me. Megan trains Salem to compete in a show. However, I don’t feel like she works with Salem enough to really say that she has trained her. Salem was pretty much an out of work, push button horse. She’s perfectly behaved and a fantastic jumper. All Megan did was bring her back into work. I would like it if there was a little more challenge involved with this aspect of the book. The ease involved with “training” Salem was a little far-fetched, as well as getting such a good horse in exchange for one day of work. If Salem hadn’t really jumped before or was tricky to ride, this portion of the book would be more interesting and believable.

There is also the tricky part of classifying this book into an age group. The “s-word” is used very lightly in this novel. I feel that Appaloosa Summer wasn’t really mature enough to be classified as a true young adult book, but its use of the “s-word” put it out of middle grade books. Overall, I guess I would categorize this novel as mature middle grade or lower young adult. Yeah, my classifications aren’t very pretty. Perhaps the removal of the swear words in this book would allow it to fit into the middle grade category of books better.

I would definitely recommend this novel to all horse lovers. It has a few flaws, but the lovely characterisation, setting, and handling of grief make up for that.

An ARC was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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