Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana (Review)

Release date: May 14th 2014

Publisher: Maggie Dana

Number of pages: 240

My rating: 3/5

Wow, this is definitely a very unique horse book! There’s a huge mixture of stuff in this novel: time travel, special dimes, slavery, and horses. The topics covered can feel strange while mixed together, but I generally enjoyed it.

Samantha DeVries is the daughter of an Olympic horse rider. She’s been riding her entire life and is aiming to be the first African American to ride horses at the Olympics. When she goes on a trip to Mississippi with her father, she plans on finding out about her horse’s origins. When she gets to Mississippi, she finds an old dime from the 19th century. She takes a nap in a tank top that says Barn Bratz while listening to Lady Gaga and clutching the dime and is transported to 1863.

Caroline Chandler lives in Mississippi while the civil war is going on. She loves horses, especially her horse Pandora. When Sam is transported into her life, things start to change. Sam must avoid being taken away as a slave and Caroline must endure a visit to a family that she does not get along with.

Given the fact that the only other book I have read by Maggie Dana was Keeping Secrets and I disliked it, I really wasn’t expecting much from this novel. I sort of expected it to be like Keeping Secrets: shallow and boring. I was completely wrong. This book was actually quite interesting.

The relationship between Caroline and Sam was great, especially since Caroline’s family owns slaves and Sam is black. There was a period of adjustment for both girls before they fell into a nice friendship. Both girls were likable and relatable.

The horsey elements in this book are alright. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, aside from Sam’s training session at the beginning of the novel (which doesn’t really affect the rest of the book anyway). There are several important horses in the novel, but none of them seem particularly interesting. I feel that a stronger focus on the individuality and quirks of the “special” horses would allow them to be a more prominent aspect of the novel.

There is a lot of stuff on the Civil War and trying to prevent changing history. It isn’t very complicated, and even someone who knows nothing about American history can understand. I honestly know nothing about the civil war, and I caught on pretty quickly without any further research (I’m Australian, and this stuff isn’t really studied here). There aren’t any gruesome details or any in depth discussions. It’s mostly about dealing with slavery and Sam trying to tell people information that she knows through being from the present day.

Some aspects of the book weren’t really very believable. I didn’t really understand how holding a penny and being in the same room as someone was years ago could transport someone through time, but I guess that an open mind must be kept when reading any book about time travel.

Turning on a Dime was a good read. Perhaps I didn't love it because I’m just too old for this (ha, I’ll be eighteen by the end of the year; I am getting old!). This book would be more suited to a younger reader with an interest in horses and the civil war. I don’t think that a reader needs to know about horses before this, as there isn’t really anything too complicated in the novel.
An ARC was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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