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Riding Invisible

Riding Invisible

4.0 2
by Sandra Alonzo, Nathan Huang (Illustrator)

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Fifteen-year-old Yancy runs away from home on the night his brother viciously attacks his horse, Shy. With just a backpack, a flashlight, his horse, and a journal, Yancy takes to the California desert on a journey of self-discovery. There he will learn the hardships of being homeless, experience his first kiss, and meet a Mexican laborer, Tavo, who has a thing or two


Fifteen-year-old Yancy runs away from home on the night his brother viciously attacks his horse, Shy. With just a backpack, a flashlight, his horse, and a journal, Yancy takes to the California desert on a journey of self-discovery. There he will learn the hardships of being homeless, experience his first kiss, and meet a Mexican laborer, Tavo, who has a thing or two to teach him about life and love.

Debut novelist Sandra Alonzo creates an honest portrait of a family dealing with mental disease. Illustrator Nathan Huang captures the humor and angst of a teenager who needs more than words to make his point. In Riding Invisible, words and art come together to create a touching, funny, and wholly original story.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Yancy Aparicio is not unlike a lot of fifteen-year old boys—afraid to talk to the girl he has a crush on, hanging out with his best friend Gomez, and spending his free time with his horse, Shy. He is a pretty good student and has a budding talent for art. He is the apple of his parents' eyes. But all is not right in Yancy's world because his older brother Will has a "conduct disorder" and delights in bullying Yancy and his friend; Yancy just tries to stay out of his way—invisible. When Will goes after Shy, cutting off his tail and slashing him with a pair of scissors, Yancy knows he has to do something. That is when he decides to disappear—which is hard to do on a horse. The whole book is presented as Yancy's journal, handwritten and hand illustrated, taking place over the course of about three weeks. Yancy does run away with Shy, gets robbed, and runs out of food, alfalfa pellets, and ideas. Then he is befriended by Tavo, a Mexican American immigrant working on a ranch, and he finds not only refuge for himself and Shy for a few days, but also learns a lot about handling life's injustices from this kind man. When the ranch owner goes through Yancy's backpack and calls his parents, he returns home. The violent threats from Will just escalate, but Yancy is no longer feeling quite so powerless and invisible after his "adventure." He is even brave enough to initiate a conversation with the cute girl at school, Christi. Having experienced the trauma of a father that beat her mother, Christi quickly becomes an ally in the efforts to keep Shy away from Will. Although the dialogue rings a little too adult on occasion, the story line is believable, the characters reasonably well developed, and the situation is one that will resonate with kids having problems at home. Some tough issues are considered thoughtfully in this journaling exploration. The protagonist's point of view, the "handwritten" text and illustrations, may also make this a very appealing read for boys. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Pam Carlson
High-schooler Yancy gallops away from home after his psychotic brother, Will, cuts the tail off of Yancy's horse, Shy. Will, who suffers from a "conduct disorder," has made Yancy's life a misery for as long as Yancy can remember. Their parents are powerless. Their version of a reward chart for Will—each day of good behavior allows him to color in a car and brings him closer to a driver's license—has no effect on his violent and unpredictable nature. Even psychologists are terrified of him. Out on the road, Yancy records the trials of feeling invisible in a journal illustrated by pencil drawings. Soon he is running out of food, money, and ideas for his and Shy's future. They are rescued by Tavo, an incredibly wise and kind ranch hand. Tavo's convincing lie that Yancy is his cousin from Mexico gets Yancy a job as his assistant. Yancy absorbs Tavo's life lessons for his eventual return home, where things have spiraled out of control. Yancy searches for another place to live until a traumatic event results in Will's hospitalization and at least temporary respite. Stereotypes mar an otherwise absorbing and agonizing analysis of one family's endless battle with mental illness. This reader often wanted to reach into the pages and knock Yancy's parents' heads together. Still, Yancy's writing is honest and will perhaps spur teen boys to attempt journaling the events of their own lives. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Publishers Weekly
Written in diary form with poems and comic book–style drawings scattered throughout, Alonzo’s (Gallop-O-Gallop) first novel presents 15-year-old Yancy Aparicio’s account of life on the road—with his cherished horse, Shy. After Yancy’s mentally troubled older brother attacks Shy, Yancy runs away, heading out into the California desert and filling his journal with his observations, interactions, and reflections. His nearly three-week journey might seem implausible to some, but there’s a timeless, noble quality to Yancy’s wanderings. His narrative has the scattered, frustrated tone of a teenager desperate to vent and who is slowly realizing what he’s gotten himself into (“A few months ago, Mom and I watched an old black-and-white Western movie. It was so lame with this cowboy on the run from the law, but shit, that guy was prepared! I mean he wasn’t eating pretzels for dinner”). While his voice can feel uneven, vacillating between polished thoughts and rougher play-by-plays of events as they happen, Yancy’s friendship with a Mexican ranch worker and his family’s genuine desperation give the book emotional resonance. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
880L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Sandra Alonzo (www.sandraalonzo.com) grew up in a mountainous region near Los Angeles. As a teen she loved exploring the local trails on horseback, reading, and experimenting with photography, gathering inspiration for the stories she longed to share. Riding Invisible is her first novel for young adults. Ms. Alonzo resides in central California not far from the Sierra National Forest.

Originally from southern California, Nathan Huang ran away from home to Brooklyn, New York, where he doodles for nice people like The New York Times, Esquire,and ESPN The Magazine. He wishes his journal were half as interesting as this one. See more of his work at www.nathanhuang.com.

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Riding Invisible 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BowlOfAnger More than 1 year ago
  "Riding Invisible" by Sandra Alonzo, is the diary of Yancy Aparicio, a fifteen year old boy who is running away from his home due to mental and physical abuse caused by his brother, Will. He had been dealing with this abuse his whole life, and finally being sent over the edge by his brother attacking his horse, Shy, with a pair of scissors, he decides to pack up and run away from home. Yancy encounters a lot on this lone wander, from muggers, to nearly falling to his death. The best part of this story by far in my opinion, are the wide array of interesting and perfectly crafted characters that Yancy encounters throughout the story.   Tavo, who is perhaps has the largest role of all of the secondary characters in the book, is a Mexican Immigrant who helps Yancy and Shy back to health  and offers emotional support to him. I especially liked Tavo, although he was a bit unrealistic in his actions towards Yancy.   Yancy's parents are as dedicated as they can be to Yancy, but he doesn't seem to see it that way, due to his brother Will constantly pulling stunts behind their parents' backs. They offer a lot of emotional support to Yancy, but are rewarded with what seems to be resent in some parts of the book.   Will, is the mentally distressed older brother of Yancy. He seems to totally disregard peoples' feelings, and is completely aware that what he does is in fact, wrong. He is depicted as an attractive boy, who often finds himself in trouble, but seems to wiggle out with the help of purposely misleading lies.   Shy, is Yancy's noble steed. While Shy obviously doesn't speak, he expresses his thoughts through different physical actions. He clearly loves Yancy as he pushes himself to move with him, even when in a very critical state. His character is a fond one, and helps the book too.  The book accounts all of Yancy's encounters on the road quite well, and fleshes out all of the characters vividly, which is maybe even too well  for what's supposed to be a teenage boy's diary. Besides that, the book looks and reads much like what you'd expect a diary to be like. With the addendum of poems that I didn't pay much mind to, and sketches spread throughout the book. The addition of hopefully intentional spelling and grammatical mistakes here and there also help the feel of authenticity in the diary. Overall, the diary is very believable for someone of Yancy's characteristics.   What really held me back from really enjoying this book, however was Yancy's character. Don't get me wrong, his character was fleshed out exceptionally well, but I just don't seem to like the kind of person Yancy is. I found him for a lot of the book to be a bit too selfish, crude, and  just uncaring of others around him, but this can be taken as Yancy's pubescent hormones taking effect, I suppose. I just didn't connect with Yancy himself, but I could see through his point of view. Being the treasured son of two, and being given plenty of emotional support and praise in his life, just to suddenly disappear and go somewhat downhill when he decides to make a sour decision obviously takes its toll. I just couldn't comprehend why Yancy would show such resentment to his parents in his diary at times. I simply took his reasons for such resentment as ignorance.   Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I highly recommend it to any kind of reader.
Galleysmith More than 1 year ago
Written in journal format this book gets the young teenaged boy's voice down pat. He's brash and at times foul mouthed and more than a little bit hormonal. Having said that he's also faithful, tender, broken, and starved for emotional support and guidance. An outlet for his frustration, a his journal is a voiceless companion that will listen to him and comfort him despite the fact that it can not change his circumstances. At first I found the language and focus of Yancy's inner thoughts (especially as it pertained to girls) to be a bit shocking for a boy of his age. For some reason I thought he'd be a bit less crude. But when I thought more on it, and read further in the book, I realized that at that age boys are crude and hormonal and lacking in tact. In the end I felt his voice was a truly accurate depiction of a child his age. He was scared and nervous and confused a good portion of the time. Most of all he was resentful of his parents. Yancy's parents were no doubt loving and somewhat supportive of him. He was clearly the shining star in their lives. Having two sons - one with severe emotional problems and one seemingly thriving - was accurately portrayed as difficult. The balancing act not always falling in the favor of the younger, more stable, child. In that way I felt most for Yancy, his parents clearly loved him and wanted what was best for him but they were simply so overwhelmed by taking care of Will and his problems that Yancy slipped through the cracks on a regular basis. I struggled with the section of the story where Yancy was taken in by Tavo, the immigrant, and his employer. I don't know how many adults would take in a child of that age for as long as they did without question. Allowing him to remain and work on a farm with no idea as to his past history seemed a bit of a stretch. Having said that, the friendship built between Yancy and Tavo was the most poignant in the young boys life. Tavo gave him insight and perspective and taught him about handling adult situations despite his young age. Finally, the illustrations peppered throughout the story provide the reader with not only excellent visualizations of what is happening in Yancy's head but also gives the reader an excellent respite from some of the heavier aspects of the book. Riding Invisible is an excellent resource that realistically speaks to child and animal abuse. A valuable tool that will help teach children about it without scaring them or over emphasizing the negative aspects of such situations.