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Not Your Typical Girl-And-Her-Horse Story

In Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, two participants try to win the brutal competition for freedom and family.

Not Your Typical Girl-And-Her-Horse Story

BOOK REPORT for The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Cover Story: Legit
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factor: Killer Horses, Mysterious Loner Dude, Tasty Business
Relationship Status: This Book IS The MLD In My High School

Cover Story: Legit

So I didn't need the title and author's name to be quite so large, but at least this cover doesn't scream YA. I like the image and the dark colors, too, which helps disguise the fact that you are reading a book about a girl and her horse.

The Deal:

Every November, the people on the island of Thisby await the arrival of the capall uisce --the mysterious water horses that are as much a part of the island as the people themselves -- as they prepare for the Scorpio Races.

Kate "Puck" Connolly has just found out that she and her brothers are about to lose everything: their house, her beloved horse Dove, and each other. The only solution she can see is to enter the races.

Sean Kendrick has won the Scorpio Races 4 times, on the water horse Corr, who he sometimes thinks he understands better than most people. All he really wants is to buy Corr from his boss and go back to his father's farm, but up until this year, Mr. Malvern has refused to sell Corr to Sean.

As Kate, Sean and the other jockeys make preparations for race day, they face down danger every day -- not just from the island horses, but from some of the people of Thisby, as well.

Check out the book trailer, made by Maggie herself:

BFF Charm: Yay

Oh, Kate Connelly, I still would give you my charm, even though I didn't feel like I got to know you very well, because while you could definitely use both me and a sassy gay friend (and I think SGF and I would both agree to never use your nickname 'Puck', for no other reason than that season of Real World) you are one fierce young lady. Having to learn how to fend for yourself -- and help take care of your brother -- at such an early age didn't do much to prepare you for slumber parties, but I'd settle for an occasional horseback ride with you, okay? Um, as long as we stay away from the beach.

I'd also give a charm to Finn, Kate's little brother. Finn! You are the cutest, and if I lived on Thisby, we could sit around and eat pastries all day and watch Kate and Sean race their horses.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

The swoon in this book is my favorite kind. It takes a back seat to the action and suspense and the fact that, oh, everybody could DIE at any moment, which raises the stakes, and makes longing stares and a few stolen kisses feel epic.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

The chapters alternate between Kate and Sean's perspectives, but their voices felt similar to me. That normally would have been a detractor, but the language of Thisby is so stark, this book so intense, that I didn't mind. Stiefvater KILLED me with this book. It's definitely my favorite of her works so far, and I think it will really appeal to both horse lovers and action/suspense junkies. She kept me on the edge of my seat -- constantly waiting for the worst to happen -- as the book pounded toward its conclusion.

Bonus Factor: Killer Horses

I love horses, but not in the 'I want a pony, isn't it pretty' way. In the way that only people who have spent a lot of time around horses could understand: getting up at the crack of dawn to muck out stalls, groom and feed them, getting right back on the horse that threw you off (not always an easy feat, and I've got the twisted hip bones to prove it), and the partnership between horse and rider -- because you are only really ever as in control of a 2,000 pound horse as said horse allows. Add to all that the introduction of the capall uisce, and the horse and rider dynamic gets turned up to intensity in ten cities. Because, the capall uisce? They're man-eaters. Literally. They also eat other farm animals, pets and other horses, which is to say that these beasts are SCARY. As I mentioned above, I think this book will appeal to horse lovers, but not in a, you know, creepy romantic way.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Sean Kendrick is one of the best MLDs I've read in a while. His reputation as the best rider/trainer on the island means he gets respect wherever he goes -- without ever having to say a word. But beneath the silent, swoonworthy exterior, he's also an MLD who will speak up for you if you gain his esteem, without trying to go all he-man controlling.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Since Kate and her brothers are poor, they're always hungry, and there are lots of descriptions of how good the pastries on the island are. Particularly 'November cakes' -- which, after spending a while on Google -- I came to the conclusion that Stiefvater made up as a way to torture me, specifically. So yeah, if there really is such a thing, or if it's based on a different cake, I'd like the recipe, m'kay? Thanks.

Casting Call:

Rachel Hurd-Wood as Kate/Puck Connelly

I think Rachel could handle Kate's innocence and her determination. Plus, every time Stiefvater described Kate's ginger curls coming loose from her pony tail, I couldn't picture anyone else.

Tom Sturridge as Sean Kendrick

I know, I KNOW. He's my go-to guy. BUT, you guys, who else fits the description of dark hair and piercing eyes, and a face that is all sharp angles, hmmm?

Relationship Status: This Book IS The MLD In My High School

I'll admit, I was drawn to this book the moment I saw it leaning against the lockers in the hallway. It is mysterious and dangerous, and I just KNOW it's got a heart of gold. I used our mutual experience with horses as a way to try to talk to it, and before I could say "I can fix you", it had me skipping class and hanging out behind the bleachers with it and its 'dangerous' friends. It was thrilling, but I'm really too much of a good-two-shoes to skip school anymore, so I'm just going to go back to making a lot meaningful eye contact with this book when we pass each other at the lockers.

FTC FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my review copy from Scholastic. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). The Scorpio Races is available today. Visit Scholastic's Facebook page or Maggie Stiefvater's website for more information, and enter to win limited edition custom necklaces via Twitter.

And GUESS WHAT?!!! Scholastic is giving away 2 copies of The Scorpio Races to 2 of our commenters! So leave a note in the comments below (and be sure to subscribe to the comments) because I will be picking winners randomly next Tuesday!

The Scorpio Races is the FYA Book Club selection for February 2012!

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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