Jun 13, 2008

Cuz U Know We Wanna Be BFF: Everyday Friends

Everyday Friends
By Lucy Diggs
First Printing: 1987

Whoa man, this book’s almost 20 years old! And it still hasn’t lost its touch. I took a break from the Ashleigh series. Yeah, yeah, I know, I only read #7 (me=pansy) but it was enough to make me decide to take a breather before I even thought of the horrors of a lost foal of Ashleigh #8 fame. So I read an old favorite, and then probably tortured myself with a book best left on the shelf (but that’s another review to be typed up at a later date) but it’s always a treat to read Everyday Friends. I think it’s a grand old book – I’ll never forget the casual swearing and the proper application of a riding crop. It made quite an impression on my young mind when I first read it and now, years later, it makes me want to stand up and continually jump around excitedly like some deranged little kid on a candy high.

Zee Cover:

I love the cover. It’s what made me pick the book up years ago in the first place. It has horses on the cover after all (well, obviously, Lei … get with the program!) It’s a pretty cover. The horses don’t have a lot of detail, but there’s a hell of a lot of action with the two jumpers, and the running horse, and the two girls. It’s got that soft watercolor look to it, and I’ve always enjoyed looking at it. Granted, the top jumper is being ridden by someone who would make George Morris scream in horror (look at that duck and perch with her butt in the air!) and one can’t just wear the red riding coat, you gotta earn it. It’s like the PGA Masters jacket, y’see. Also, the girl riding the second jumper looks to be perching on her horse’s neck. Amazing, this book is years ahead of its time, heh. Because, holy moly, that’s what hunter princesses do these days. But it’s still a pretty cover.

Zee Back Cover Blurb:

Is Marcy a born quitter?

Is Marcy really a born quitter? She’s starting to think so! She just can’t seem to see things through like her older sister.

But then she meets Nat—short for Natasha—and her mom. Both accomplished horsewomen, they teach Marcy how to ride.

Marcy is soon surprised by the love and dedication she feels towards riding. And as her friendship with Nat develops, Marcy realizes that perseverance—in friendship as well as riding—has its own rewards.

Holy. Shit. They just don’t write synopses the way they used to. This is practically a work of art. Short, sweet and to the point without coming up with anything stupid that actually doesn’t occur within the story. But hey, I’ve got nothing to argue with, it draws the reader in, and asks questions, and answers them. Basically, you’ve got the gist of the story right there in 10 sentences. What’s between the pages is there to flesh it all out.

Ye Olde Plot:

So our story begins on the first day of eighth grade where our intrepid heroine, Marcy (Marcella, actually… but don’t let her hear you calling her that) has just humiliated herself in math class (one sympathizes) and finds out that her best friend is now best friends with a real girl (the kind that wears makeup, and will probably be sleeping her way through the high school football team in a few years) and so Marcy no longer has a best friend Boo hoo, poor her.

So anyway, after a few days of playing chicken with her Former Best Friend and The Real Girl, Marcy decides that trespassing on Old Man Donaldson’s farm would be a good idea, only to find out that everything’s been all fixed up and “Donaldson doesn’t live here anymore.” Instead, she gets ambushed in the woods by Nat who has a horse, and Marcy meets the horse, and it’s instant EXPLODING HEARTS AND STARS!!!! And now, she’s friends with Nat. And Nat lets her ride her horse. Hooray! And the best part is, Nat practically flips off The Real Girl in favor of Marcy. Hooray!

At this point, we have to have some suspension of disbelief here; Marcy meets Nat in September, and presumably by early November, she’s doing W/T/C and starting over low crossrails. Now, I remember back to the first time I started riding lessons, and there was no way in hell that I would have gotten the basics of walk and trot (plus sitting trot, and posting trot) down within a few months much less cantering and jumping small fences. Even with someone with ‘natural’ talent isn’t going to turn into an equestrian prodigy overnight; however, given the target audience and the desire for instant gratification (which I can well relate to, since I fit the demographics at the time this book was published) Marcy kind of skips a couple of levels, and just before Christmas, she’s already looking around for a horse of her own. This is largely due in part to Nat having a Selfish Moment, and telling Marcy she can’t ride Joey that day, so Marcy stomps home, makes faces and whines about it. Lo and behold, at that night’s dinner party, Marcy schmoozes up with a friend of the family, a widower named Jim Ferguson. Jim’s rich, he owns a cattle ranch somewhere in the Bay Area (I’d bet it’s in Marin county. Fucking rich Marin County) just happens to have some people staying at his ranch who are selling a horse. So Marcy begs her parents, and they say yes, which leads to a visit to Jim’s cattle ranch with Nat, and her mom, Sasha.

This is probably one of my favorite scenes in the book because Marcy’s been dreaming of this dainty little chestnut mare or something equally girly and pretty and well, anything a girl could desire in a horse. But then they get to the ranch, and she’s confronted with this Plain Jane seal-brown behemoth with a winter coat and a floppy left ear. And Marcy loses it, the horse goes nuts, and takes off. And much to her chagrin, after mouthing off about how great a rider she is to Jim, he’s there to see everything go pear-shaped. But the important thing is, he’s now eying Sasha like a trophy, and she’s oogling him right back.

Anyway, Marcy’s mom is something of a backstage mom; the kind of lady who probably wished she could have done the thing she’s forced her kids into doing – kind of like those beauty pageant moms who dress their daughters up as little skanky tarts. Marcy’s older sister is a dancer, and we hear enough from her mother how dedicated she is and blah blah blah blah. (Marcy says her sister is narrow, and judging by Dana’s response of “What else is there to do?” if regards to doing something other than dancing, I’m inclined to agree.) Also, Marcy seems to get the shaft from her parents because their precious older child has a Gift.™ This means, no pets for Marcy growing up because her sister is allergic, and god forbid the talented kid gets allergies before a big dance recital or something. So Marcy’s been pretty much forced to play the piano. She’s not bad at it, but doesn’t really like it. And ever since she discovered horses, she’d rather be riding.

So in a fit of genius, when her mom and her music teacher, Gene drag her off across the golden Gate Bridge for a piano audition, Marcy completely fucks up her playing. Which is just brilliant! So Marcy escapes the wrath of the piano for a few days before her mother makes her play again. And then we go into Christmas, in which Marcy gets a saddle, still looks for a horse, and has a weird dream about her sister dancing on her saddle (kid, you need to lay off the egg nog.)

And then lo and behold, January comes, and nearly goes before Marcy just happens over to Nat’s place one afternoon, and runs into T.C. who’s the Joneses handyman kind of person. And wouldn’t you just know it, but he knows a guy who knows of a horse. So off they go to Foggy Creek Stables, where we see the vast difference of the life of a horse if it’s owner wants to pay a premium for board, or just muddle along at the bare minimum. Marcy tries the horse, T.C. cusses and swears at the barn manager, who’s really an asshole anyway (so he deserves it) and Marcy finally gets to bring her horse (named Richard) home. Hooray!

So time passes, Nat and Marcy get into a tiff, mostly about Nat being jealous of Jim and how her mom is probably screwing him. She lies to Marcy about her dad, and Marcy almost moves to a different barn, but they soon mend fences. And then Marcy goes to a schooling show, and Richard throws her several times. So she takes him back to the trailer, leaves him there, and goes off to have a good cry. When she gets back, Sasha practically goes postal on her for leaving a horse tied to the trailer still tacked up without food and water. (Hell hath no fury like a pissed off riding instructor) So Marcy gathers her courage, gets back on and goes back to the schooling ring. Where upon, Richard pretty much refuses to jump, so Sasha screams at her to hit him with the riding crop. Bravo! See, he jumped the fence, he didn’t shatter into a zillion pieces, he jumped the fucking fence like he was fucking supposed to. And she gets some ribbons in flat classes.

And when she gets home, her mom’s at her again with the piano, so Marcy tells her to eff off, and eavesdrops on her parents talking about her, and her dad supports her. Yay. So no more piano, and horses are in. It’s off to the bigger shows!

Like the Santa Rosa Spring Classic in May. Super duper! And they get there, and Marcy has a run-in with a Real Hunter Princess who acts like a bitch in the saddle, but she eventually learns that Sharon’s not so bad on the ground (just don’t get in her way on horseback, or she’ll cut you, bitch.) And then Marcy competes in classes, and Sharon and Nat go head to head for division champion, and then Marcy finally gets a ribbon over fences, and some BNT (Big Name Trainer) from Malibu named Merl pretty much comes on to her (y’know, I always thought it was a little creepy about grown men having so many pre-teen/teen female students.) And then Marcy finds out Nat lied about her dad, and they drive home, and all is forgiven.

And thus ends the book, with the last words being spoken referring to the Santa Barbara National (which fucking rocks, I love that show.)

Zee Eenteresting Points to Consider:
  • Casual swearing, casual swearing. Casual. Swearing. Oh, and I did mention casual swearing right? I don’t know how this managed to get by the censors editors, but maybe it was just something in the 80s – kids being less impressionable and all, and less of a need to be PC and clean. But hey, Nat says “crap” a lot, and T.C. is one of my favorite characters because he’s an old cowboy type who never learned much in the way of manners. He goes so far as to say “goddamn” “tiddly-ass” and even calls Mr. Carlson a “shifty eyed son of a bitch.” Ah, I love it!
  • The horses in these books have real names. Which is fairly typical of horses in general with sane owners. You have your pretentious high-minded registered/show name like Seaspray or Worth Waiting or Good Measure, but then you have the barn name, which could be anything like Joey, or Richard, or Thelma. It’s normal, it’s human, and it’s sane. Too many horses with young female owners end up with pretentious barn names that could almost be show names in and of themselves. I often wish that the TB series had had barn names for horses that weren’t just some abbreviated form of their registered name.
  • I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Proper. Application. Of. A. Riding. Crop. It makes me tingly all over. In fact, I’ll even share it:
Marcy trotted the X a few times and all was well, but when she cantered up to the vertical Richard stopped.

“Hit him!” Sasha said. “Get after him!”

“But it’s my fault!” Marcy wailed. “He never stopped before.”

“He’s just figured out that he can. Now get after him!”

Marcy hit him with her crop.

“Harder! Make him feel it.”
Holy. Shit. My god, proper application of a riding crop, I never thought I’d live to see the day when it’s in a book. Marcy had to hit Richard again when he refused during their course, but it’s all good.

So this ends Everyday Friends. I shall now continue to immerse myself in a book best left on the shelf, and explore the reasons why religion and horse racing don’t seem to mix very well.


Claire said...

oh lei, i'm so glad you reviewed this book! i've always totally loved it.

Molly said...

I loved loved loved this book as a kid. I almost bought a second copy at the thrift the other day, just because. It was the closest thing to realistic I've ever seen in a horse book - Marcy's OMG NATURAL ABILITIES were a bit much, but the kids acted like actual kids, the horses acted like actual horses, and the lead character and her horse weren't treated like fucking demigods and actually had to BE RESPONSIBLE. And the little things - Marcy not getting the first horse she looked at, her horse being a kind of plain-looking bay without fancy lineage, horses acting up not because they have DAMAGED LITTLE PSYCHES but because horses are sometimes just pains in the ass, Marcy not winning ribbons in every class and NOT GETTING BLUES, EVER, etc.

God, why couldn't THIS have been a series?

I actually knew someone whose horse had such a snooty barn name (Windsor) that she gave him a silly fluffy show name (Winnie the Pooh). Hee. My horse was just screwed. Full proper name? Yankee Doodle. Barn name? ALF. *facepalm* NOT MY FAULT, can I just say.

It tickled me that the horses had such random human names - Richard and Thelma? Hee.