- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
VOYATen-year-old Bobby-who often forgets that she is not really a boy-lives with her mother and sister, Jocelyn, in 1920s California. While roaming the countryside one night, Bobby befriends a strange man who is actually a horse: Mr. Boots. After Bobby's mother dies, Boots-who was injured fetching the doctor-moves in, and he and Jocelyn fall in love. When the girls' abusive, itinerant-magician father arrives to take his supposed "son" to carry on his act, Jocelyn and Boots accompany them. They live as wandering show people, with Bobby reluctantly concealing her gender even through brutal whippings and a second arm-breaking. Only when a final tragedy with Boots drives Bobby's father away-perhaps forever-can Bobby finally admit who she really is. This story makes for an odd book. The meager scene-setting all but omits location and era, and a lack of transitional passages combined with stilted (or stylized) writing renders the narrative jerky and uneven. Reinforcing the unevenness are an ambiguously focused plot and intriguingly multifaceted characters with only vague purposes. Boots is a particular enigma. He seems a metaphor for Bobby and her feelings about gender and abuse, but would any teens pick that up? Also disconcerting are sexual details inappropriate for readers of Bobby's age. This book hints at a powerful story lurking beneath the surface-about gender, about perception, about how we allow people to treat us-but unfortunately, the author could not quite focus it. For a superior horse-man fantasy, direct high schoolers to R. A. MacAvoy's The Grey Horse (Bantam, 1987/VOYA October 1987). VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YAwith a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Viking, 192p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Rebecca C. Moore