Horse by Talley English | SLJ Review

When Teagan, the 14-year-old protagonist of this fine debut novel, shops for two cats at the local animal shelter with her older brother Charlie, she asks to see the felines on “death row.”

redstarENGLISH, Talley. Horse. 336p. Knopf. Aug. 2018. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781101874332.

When Teagan, the 14-year-old protagonist of this fine debut novel, shops for two cats at the local animal shelter with her older brother Charlie, she asks to see the felines on “death row.” “We want something that doesn’t care about people,” she explains, choosing a shy tabby missing half an ear and a tomcat with no teeth. Thus Slinky and Gums join a menagerie of horses and dogs living in Virginia at Blue View, a few acres that Teagan and her family are hanging on to, just barely. The members of this household love animals but can’t communicate with one another. When Robert, the father, abruptly walks out, he leaves his thoroughbred gelding Obsidian, nicknamed Ian, behind. Robert’s absence greatly impacts Teagan and her mother, Susannah. Teagan’s mastery of the willful Ian progresses even as she flounders, unable to let Robert back into her life when he settles nearby. Slowly Teagan learns to trust her instincts about Ian—and herself. Constructed as a series of vignettes, this quiet, restrained novel downplays emotional catharsis, allowing teens to read between the lines, much like Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango StreetVERDICT A shining debut for coming-of-age collections focusing on promising young authors. Recommended for serious readers and animal lovers alike.–Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2018 issue.

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