Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

 

Racing Savannah

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is the second novel of Miranda Kenneally’s that I’ve read.  Catching Jordan didn’t really work for me because I couldn’t relate to Jordan.  Racing Savannah, on the other hand, worked on almost every level.  I loved Savannah, though, like Jack, I was little disappointed with her life choices- at first.  As Savannah is allowed to chase after her dreams, they begin to evolve and grow, and she quickly realizes that, despite her humble background, there isn’t a race that she can’t win.  By the end of the book, I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.  This is a satisfying fairy tale, and it all revolves around one of the things I love best; horses.

Savannah’s family has up and moved to Tennessee just days before her senior year of high school.  She’s not happy to be in new surroundings, crowded in a small community house for the employees of her father’s new boss, but the move is a step up for him.  The farm is beautiful, her father is the head groom of a million dollar racing outfit, and the horses are spirited and fast.  Savannah is determined to work as an exercise rider to help pay the medical bills crippling her father’s finances.  Her mother’s terminal illness left them under a crushing amount of debt.  To make their financial outlook even more bleak, her father has gotten his new girlfriend pregnant, and Savannah won’t just sit by and watch her new sibling suffer the same meager childhood she experienced.

I’ll be jumping around during this review. Sorry!  There was a lot going on in the book, and I wanted to address some of the major conflicts in Savannah’s life separately.  Nobody in her family finished high school, let alone college, so she doesn’t even think about going down that route.  She does know that she isn’t going to be like her father, working minimum wage jobs and struggling to put food on the table.  She is going to be an exercise rider, because they make more money.  Savannah has been raised around racetracks, and a life doing anything without horses isn’t a consideration.  She loves them, she loves riding, and she can’t comprehend doing anything else.  Money is always a concern of hers, and now with a new family member on the way, she’s consumed with it.  How can she make things better for everyone?  Later in the novel, her father accuses her of being selfish and only doing what she wants to do; I wanted to slap him upside the head and tell him what a selfish jerk he was.  And what about setting a good example for his daughter?  Don’t get your girlfriend pregnant when you have no means to support the family you already have.  Idiot!

The farm is owned by the Goodwin family.  They are dripping with old money, and when Savannah meets their son, Jack, she breaks one of the rules for the staff; staff is not allowed to mingle with the family.  They should know their place.  Jack and Savannah are instantly attracted to each other, despite the objections of both of their families.  Jack’s father is afraid of tainting the family name if Jack is caught dating a servant, and Savannah’s dad is afraid of losing his job.  When Jack wants to keep their relationship a secret, Savannah’s heart is broken, but she realizes it’s time to move on.  She won’t allow herself to be used, or to be a secret, and I had more respect for her for sticking to her guns about that. 

For the next year, Jack is in charge of the farm, and that’s one of the things that didn’t work for me.  I found it difficult to believe that his father, who is so controlling, would allow his high school aged son to actually make all of the major decisions for the business while Jack’s also studying and trying to score well on his college entrance exams.  While this gave Savannah and Jack many opportunities to spend time together, I just didn’t find it very believable.

While I don’t know much about horse racing, there wasn’t anything about the horsey parts of the book that I found jarring.  In order for the story to work, Savannah has an uncanny ability to understand the horses under her care in ways no one else can.  When she’s hired as an exercise rider, one of the horses, a promising young stallion with a bloodline to die for, is struggling with his racing.  His career record sucks, and considering the amount of money Jack agreed to pay for the stud fees, he is under pressure to get the horse into a winning way.  Savannah’s exercise times with the horse are impressive, and as she continues to work with Star, she thinks she understands why he is so skittish during races.  This opens the door for her to look beyond her original life plan for herself.  There is something more for her, a higher calling, if you will.  Once she’s given the responsibility to take charge of Star’s racing future, she also begins to take charge of her own future.  I loved this part of Racing Savannah.  Savannah learns to give herself more credit and she develops a larger world view.  Life won’t be restricted to exercising horses.  She is going to reach for the stars that she can see outside of her tiny window.  Sometimes, it isn’t the view that’s important – it’s the courage to reach outside your comfort zone and grab hold of something new.

I read this in a few hours, and I couldn’t put it down.  Some might find the horse racing aspects tedious, but I loved them, as well as how the horses were meshed into Jack and Savannah’s relationship.  I was so invested in the story, too.  I wanted Savannah to chase down her dreams, and to not settle.  Not for a dead-end job, an unfaithful boyfriend, or life with few expectations.  I wanted to yell to her, “Run, Savannah, and catch those dreams!”  And in the end, the horses weren’t the only ones winning their races.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Racing Savannah

By Miranda Kenneally

Sourcebooks Fire

December 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8476-2

Trade Paper/$9.99 

Ages 13+

They’re from two different worlds.

Savannah has been around horses her entire life.  Right before her senior year, her father whisks the family off to Tennessee to work as head groom at fancy Cedar Hill Farms, a farm that trains horses for the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup. Savannah finally sees it as the perfect opportunity to earn extra money as an exercise rider—no matter how many others don’t want a girl around the barn. 

After all, she caught singlehandedly caught the farm’s most expensive new colt when it ran away from three grown men.   She also caught the eye of Jack Goodwin, the owner’s son.  He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack.

About the Author From gender roles, to parental expectations, to the influence of faith and the classic teenage search for identity, Miranda Kenneally isn’t afraid to take on all the hot-button issues of modern teen life. She is the author of Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker and Things I Can’t Forget, and is the co-creator of the website DearTeenMe.com. Miranda also writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest.You can visit her at www.mirandakenneally.com or @mirandakennealy.