Cassidy is a teenager with a good family and one friend. At the age of seven she was thrown from a horse, needed 30 stitches in her noggin, and was left with a cautious attitude toward life. Now things are falling apart–her friend is widening her social circle and dumping Cassidy, and her father walks out on her mother, fracturing the family unit. Cassidy copes by staying in bed for the last three weeks of the school year. Anxious to help her, her mom ships her off for the summer to a horse ranch in Wyoming called Point of No Return.
Self-described as a leadership training scheme, it is a de facto outdoor rehab program for kids whose parents are at their wits’ end about what to do with them. At this place is a wide spectrum of personalities, all of whom are treated mostly sympathetically. Leaders are tough but smart and caring. The kids are expected to live rough, work hard at community chores, and support the ranch program of gentling an assortment of wild mustang horses so that the horses will attract buyers at the end of the program instead of being sold for dog meat. Cassidy proves herself to be better than she expected at making friends, sussing out the social scene, knowing when to stand up for herself and others, and accomplishing her assignments.
This is a heavy-duty horse story. While I myself am in no way a horse person, I found myself completely drawn into and rewarded by it. The book has it all: budding first romance, bullying, a beautiful Western setting, curious and interesting animals, mystery, suspense, anxiety, parental weaknesses, and the intricacy of evolving friendships. In addition, characters learn how to appreciate different kinds of people, how to meet difficult situations with maturity, how to separate what issues belong to them and which are for others to sort out–well, I could go on and on. Both young and old characters display good and bad qualities, with the plus being that the reader gets some understanding of why the baddies act the way they do. The teenagers receive guidance but learn they are capable of making decisions for themselves. Everybody pretty much seems to move further along the path toward self-actualization.
There is some bad language of the hell-shit-damn-Oh God variety. There is one sex scene, but it is rather vaguely described. There are a number of excellent, pithy observations, and the writing and plotting are excellent.
I do not know this author, but my hat is off to her. According to the book jacket, she has eight kids, a husband, two dogs, a cat, and two professional jobs. With all that, she has managed to write an involved, absorbing, richly-layered YA novel that should satisfy, educate, and entertain anybody. This one’s well worth the read.
Categories: Books We Recommend, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Summer Camps, Violence