Title: The Trouble Being a Horse
Author: Emily Edwards
Publisher: Single Stride Publishing
May Contain Spoilers
The main character, Olivia, is an eleven-year-old girl who loves horses and finds her greatest happiness with them. The rest of her life is not so great: her family mostly ignores her and don’t really understand her, and she’s a bit of a social outcast. She feels unhappy a lot of the time, as many young girls can feel, and in a low moment of unhappiness she unwittingly wishes to become a horse, as she thinks this will solve a lot of her problems. Olivia is shocked, to say the least, when she is actually turned into a horse. Thrust into the unprecedented situation of being a girl in a horse’s body, Olivia is unsure of what to do. She feels strongly that she should keep her unusual state a secret, and joins a group of wild ponies, but is forced to seek help after sustaining a bear attack. Luckily, she winds up at a good stable, and meets Jenny, the daughter of the man who runs the centre, and together they form an unbeatable team in the show ring. But when Olivia can’t resist showing off how much she knows, she puts her secret and friendship with Jenny in jeopardy. Olivia must decide whether she wants to remain as a horse or return to her life as an ordinary girl, and in the process is taken on a journey of self-discovery.
Olivia is your typical horse-crazy young girl. She lives for her riding lessons and for hanging out at the barn. Her family doesn’t have a lot of money so she has muck stalls and perform odd jobs at the barn to pay her way, but she doesn’t care. She loves horses, and she wants to learn to be the best rider she can be. She is frustrated that her family isn’t supportive of her equestrian goals, and when she is forbidden from riding anymore, she rebels. She goes to the barn anyway, and wishes that she was a horse. She thinks that life would be much easier that way. She feels unloved and unappreciated at home, and the uncomplicated life of a horse seems ideal to her. After a bizarre twist of fate turns her into a horse, Olivia learns just how wrong she is. Being a horse isn’t nearly as easy or carefree as she thought!
This book offers a twist on the usual horse-theme – the protagonist actually gets turned into a horse. Now a horse-girl, she ends up in the care of Jenny and her family. Able to understand everything that is asked of her, Olivia tries to be the perfect horse. Only being the perfect horse isn’t as easy as it sounds. Jenny quickly becomes frustrated with her new mount, because she does everything before she’s even asked. It’s as though Jenny doesn’t even need to be part of the equation for them to win at horse shows. Olivia’s perfect horse act has also garnered a lot of unwanted attention, and after a tragic accident befalls Jenny’s father, Olivia learns just how hard it really is to be a horse.
I thought the premise of this book lived up to its promise. While Olivia understands everything that is going on around her, she can’t make the humans in her life understand her. She finds it frustrating and frightening that she has no control over her life now that she is a horse, and that she can’t take anything in her life for granted. An accident changes everything, forcing her into an unpleasant new home. Now that she has had so much time to think, Olivia realizes that maybe being a girl wasn’t so awful after all.
This book will delight middle grade girls who enjoy horse and animal stories. There’s a ton of suspense, and I actually started worrying about how Olivia was going to deal with the ownership change that put her in a horrible situation. The ending was just a bit too simplistic in regards to how Olivia’s long absence was dealt with, but over all this is a satisfying read. Olivia returns home with a new perspective, which helps her to better understand both the people and horses in her life.
Review copy provided by publisher