Children's Literature - Della A. Yannuzzi
Spencer is a 16-year-old who has some problems. He is living with his grandmother because he and his mother don't get along. One of the reasons for this is Spencer's part-time job at a racing stable. Spencer loves horses and exercises them at Scampy Scallopini's racing stable. The thing is his mother doesn't want him to work with horses since his father died from a horse fall. When she finds out his grades are low, she tells him he has to quit his job, come home, and put more effort into his schoolwork. But Spencer can't because he enjoys working with horses, likes Scampy's niece Em, and is trying to solve a mystery. Who is giving a horse named Lord of the Flies a drug to win races? And what is it? The title gives a hint. At first Spencer thinks it is Scampy and tells Em, who disagrees with him. When Spencer confronts Scampy about this, Scampy fires him and then rehires him. Then there is Tony, another groom whom Spencer doesn't trust. Eventually, Em begins to videotape Tony when he is around horses. Tony catches Em in the act, but Spencer sees this and rescues Em. Spencer still has to straighten things out with his mother and promises her he will only work at the racing stable on weekends. Also, he wants to attend Em's school because it may be a better fit for him. This is a fast-paced novel with a mystery bent while also exploring family relationships and a love of horses. Reviewer: Della A. Yannuzzi
Children's Literature - JoAn Watson Martin
The first words are "You're fired!" Who could resist reading the rest of the novel? Sixteen-year-old Spencer insists that something is wrong with Lord of the Flies. He loves working at the race track exercising the horses, even cleaning stalls. But when he inquires what the trainer is using on the horse, it seems he has asked one question too many. If he thinks about his dad being killed in the stall with a horse six years ago, he almost pukes. His grandmother invites him to live with her to get away from his alcoholic mother and her boyfriends. Nikki Tate gives her readers what most people never see: the backside of the track. It is a world of its own. Venom is a Dick Francis novel for teens. Spencer continues to think that Lord is "bordering on lame." Em talks her uncle into rehiring him so he watches carefully, but keeps his mouth shut. Em is one of the best things about working there, even though mostly she is her snotty self. Spencer and his grandmother spend evenings trying to predict the unpredictable and pick winning horses. Spencer harbors a continuing suspicion of Tony. Scampy takes Em and Spencer with him to the feed store and tries to figure out what the stuff is in Joe's fridge. It is a pleasure to read a horse book that is honest about the difficult behavior of horses. The reader is offered insight into training a variety of horse personalities. The process of worming fourteen horses paints a visual picture. Great novel, well written, for kids who cannot get enough horse lore. Reviewer: JoAn Watson Martin
"Once again, Nikki Tate has written an excellent horse novel. This, however, is much more that just a horse novel...It will appeal to all young adults who like a good mystery or a good horse story. Highly recommended."
"A story of intrigue, but it is also a realistic look at teen life including emotions, trials and trouble of the typical youth…Highly recommended."
The Baytown Sun
"The first words in this young adult novel are, 'You're fired!' Who could resist reading the rest of the novel?...It's a pleasure to read a horse book that is honest about the difficult behavior of horses...Great novel, well written, for kids who can't get enough horse lore. Nikki Tate gives her readers what most people never see: the backside of the track. It's a world of its own."
"With a good deal of suspense, this novel will capture the attentions of young readers who place following their passions above sitting in school...Readers will get caught up in Spencer's search for the truth and his dilemma over playing it safe by keeping quiet, or following his conscience and risking both his job and passion."
Read an Excerpt
All I did was ask what he'd given the horse. I didn't say the words illegal doping. I didn't say anything about cheating. I asked a simple question. What did you just give the horse?