May 27, 2008

We Will All Have to Abide by Dylan's Choice, TB #30

Dylan's Choice
Written by Dale Gasque
Originally Published 1998

Well, after torturing myself with Samantha's Journey, I decided it was time to see if I could find any TB book more boring, which, of course, led me to the New Generation. Since I am in no way ready to tackle any of the monstrosities written after #40, I picked #30, Dylan's Choice.

Well, this cover is kind of dumb, really. The author didn't seem to spend any time on anything but the horse, who looks terribly weird. Chris and Dylan are tiny, and I love how Christina is holding on to her supposed-boyfriend's waist with what looks like just a pinky. Again we are treated to helmets without chin straps, and why is Christina riding in Chucks?

Plot: So in this book there is a new kid named Chad, and everyone wants to blow him, especially Dylan, Christina's crush since she was unfortunately brought into the TB world in #24. But watch out, Dylan, because Katie, Christina's best friend, wants to blow Chad too. And, because gay people don't exist in the TB world, that means you will have to work extra hard to beat her in the contest for Chad's heart.

Okay, so the book probably would have been much more entertaining if the plot had detailed an epic battle between Dylan and Katie for Chad's romantic affections, but alas, it is not to be. Instead we are treated to a deconstruction of gender roles, TB style.

Christina is so happy that she and Dylan are in puppy love and they get to ride together everywhere yay! Unlike her unfortunate predecessor, Cindy, Christina is lucky enough to have found a boy as obsessed with horses and winning and being the best rider in the world as she is. Please note that this would have been completely unaccepable if Dylan was a girl, because our protagonist must always be the best female equestrian. Anyway, luckily for Christina, Dylan is also nice, funny, and pretty cute (even I think so), and it's unfortunate that the authors decided to write him out of the series...or off the face of the earth...because I actually liked his character.

Anywhoo, everything is going great until Chad appears at Mona's farm on his dirt bike, spooking all the horses and stealing Dylan's heart. Now all Dylan wants to do is ride on dirt bikes and play soccer, which Christina finds completely unacceptable. Why? Well, these two activities are distracting Dylan from riding, which means he spends less time riding with Christina, and what's even worse, less time training Dakota for an upcoming three day event. As we all known, this is grounds to be disappointed with any man.

As we delve deeper into Dylan's male psyche, however, we discover that Chad is teasing Dylan because he is wearing girly pants (breeches), therefore challenging Dylan's budding masculinity. What is a sort of pubescent boy to do? Injure his horse, that's what! First Dylan beats Dakota with a riding crop when he refuses a jump. Then he rides Dakota over a jumping course like he's barrel racing, snagging his foot on a jump standard and causing it to hit the horse in the leg. THEN he gallops Dakota over slippery grass during an event. The horse totally wipes out and slides across the grass on his side with Dylan's leg underneath him, but somehow they are both unharmed and no one thinks to beat Dylan with a crop for his repeated willful neglect. Except for Christina, who's been telling Dylan he's an idiot since page four of the book. Unfortunately, we all know that no one listens to Christina, especially when she knows best, though in this book she's actually right.

Finally, during the show jumping leg of the event, Dylan forgets to put on Dakota's galloping boots, so the horse cuts himself AND refuses a jump. Shamed by his neglect, Dylan dumps Dakota in a horse trailer and goes off the win the championship soccer game, probably earning him a romantic night alone with Chad. But it's a Pyrrhic victory, and Dylan apologizes to Christina for not listening to him when she told him he was maiming his horse, then says he is going to stop playing soccer to concentrate on said horse. Then he tells all the boys on his soccer team to stop making fun of his pants and all is well in the world.

Points of Interest:
  • All throughout the book Katie, Christina's supposed best friend, constantly dumps Christina to hang out with Chad. Christina doesn't seem really concerned by this though. She's too busy worrying about if Dylan is cheating on her with Chad.
  • Which brings me to my next point. The end of this book left me pretty disgusted. Christina spends the whole time agonizing over whether or not Dylan will quit riding, as if you can't speak to someone who won't ride because people who don't ride horses have leprosy. But then, when Dylan puts riding first again, all is well! I was always upset by how boy-centric the early NewGen books were, but I think this one just really drives it home. Christina is obsessed with Dylan and controlling his actions, and while he is acting like a dumb ass, her 1950s-style fawning is really off-putting. There is no B-plot in this book guys. This is all there is.
  • I will say, I enjoy reading the authors write Sterling. Even though she miraculously can compete in novice level events only a few months after coming off the track, she is a real jerk and constantly gives Christina hard time. That, at least, is realistic. Sterling's problems are not fixed right away, and Christina's inexperience often make it worse. Plus, the problems she faces, such as being afraid of water, are REAL problems, which is better than anything Bentley came up with.
  • At one point the author claims that Melanie isn't as serious about riding as Dylan and Christina...WRONG. While I'm stopping to admire this busted spot, I will add that I don't remember ANYONE being as driven as riding about Christina. I feel Dylan has probably undergone a sudden personality change to comply with the plot of the book...or Christina doesn't know him at all, making her even more of a creepy stalker.
  • Christina used to play soccer? What?
  • Ashleigh suggests that Christina takes her incredibly spooky mare on lots of road hacks to make her less spooky. Because after Sterling spooks and gets run over by a car, she certainly will be too dead to be scared.
  • At one point Sterling jumps a giant fallen pine tree on a trail at Whitebrook, therefore making her just as good a jumper as Sierra was. Because this is how we rate the success of all jumpers. On Earth.
  • Dylan is very clean - in this book Christina is able to smell not only his laundry detergent, but his peppermint the middle of a trail ride.
  • At one point all the kids play chicken when they are swimming in the "river," and Christina is really excited that she gets to wrap her legs around Dylan's head. The end.
  • Ashleigh always seems to show up at just the right moments to play Yoda and give Christina the perfect Zen advice, no matter how bad they've previously been fighting. In this book, Christina so busy fighting with Dylan that she forgets she is more knowledgeable than Ashleigh and actually takes her mother's advice.
  • At one point Christina marvels at how wonderful Dylan's show attire makes his Adam's apple look.
  • Christina and Sterling place six in their event, and Christina is actually thrilled.
I hate to say it guys, but as boring and offensive as this book was, it was still better than anything written after Ultimate Risk. The NewGen was better before it was the NewNewGen. That said, I am glad no TB author ever tried to tackle the complexity of gender roles in children's sports ever, ever again.


Anonymous said...

i'd love to know what brand of toothpaste Dylan must be nice to never have to worry about having dragon breath.

i actually remember enjoying this book, even though it was way too Saddle Clubby to fit in this series. however, i always thought Dakota looked like he was about nineteen hands high on this cover.

Mara said...

I am so mystified by books 24-30. To me, they're like the Thoroughbred Series's version of the Twilight Zone, or something freakishly similar.


Christina is really excited that she gets to wrap her legs around Dylan's head. The end.

Oh my GOD.

Claire said...

oh mara, you just wait until i get to cassidy's secret

Monique said...

Claire, you have forever changed my view of this book. Thank you. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind this one, because it actually does have some horse-accurate information!! And I totally lol'd at the Adam's Apple thing too.