Jul 17, 2008

The Dream Horse Makes Me Uncomfortable

The Dream Horse
Virginia Campbell Scott
Copyright 1993

I found this book in my box of old horse books that I didn't sell off on Amazon.com in a spate of misguided money-making insanity. I thought I'd review it. Here goes.


How much is there to complain about here? I don't really know. Except the horse in question, Drummer, is supposed to be hideously ugly and have some draft horse in him. So that depiction there is off. Also, that girls is riding in loafers while wearing yellow socks. I'm just saying.

Against the odds...

After growing up abroad, Miranda McDonald is eager to go to a real American high school. But back home in Kentucky, Miranda sees that her foreign upbringing has made her an outsider. The only comfort she finds is in the company of her horse, Drummer.

Dummer is a champion in Miranda's eyes only. But when another outsider, the handsome but Reckless Gray Walker, says he believes in Drummer, Miranda is sure that together she and Gray can make Drummer a winner. Then as they train the horse, Miranda's hesitant attraction to Gray turns into a passionate love. Will she risk her reputation to stay with the boy the whole town despises?
When I was a kid I would spend hours combing bookshelves thoroughly for any title that might have anything remotely to do with horses. So I guess I was pretty thrilled when I found this in the young adult section at the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown one day after getting a hair cut. It looks like a freaking romance novel though, so I was understandably wary. And while this book wasn't grossly offensive, it's certainly not grandly amazing. Reading it as an adult, it does offer amusement because it is a very strange attempt at a young adult romance novel con i cavalli, so I certainly won't tell anyone who feels like experiencing bewilderment and maybe even a chuckle or two to stay away. If you're looking for a good book...yeah, this is not for you.

Now, as for the plot. 15ish year old Miranda McDonald has just moved to the United States after growing up all over Europe because he dad is some sort of Important Person with an Occupation that Causes Him to Move All Over Europe. Oh yeah, he works for an oil company. In Europe? There's oil there? Anyway. Miranda's older sister, Joanna, is entering her senior year of high school and pretty much demanded that she attend an American high school so she could do all those normal American high school things like be a cheerleader and Prom Queen. Apparently this girl is the most spoiled pretty princess on earth or something, because she and Miranda are sent to Kentucky to live with their grandmother. Henceforth they will be referred to as Joey and Randi, because Scott has a very strange habit of giving people full names that she then turns into really odd nicknames, always masculinizing them even if the characters are girls. It's quite off-putting, really. For the first several chapters every time I read "Randi" all I could think of was Austin Powers, and then it later occurred to me that she shares a name with Randy Jackson, a person whose appearance I find to be abnormal and terrifying for reasons I cannot explain. Basically what I'm saying is that if you think these nicknames are weird, you are not alone.

Randi, who we will learn is like, a total pushover, was okay with this move because her father has promised her that while in the good old U. S. of A. she will be allowed to purchase a horse, something she's dreamed of forever. She took riding lessons all over Europe, of course, but because her family moved all over the place she could never have a horse. So really this is great news for Randi except that her dad has told her she can't spend more than $300 on said horse, a completely unrealistic plot device that even the author acknowledges via Randi's inner monologue as being absurd.

Also staying at Old Lady' McDonald's house is Tracey, Joey and Randi's 25 year old cousin. She's been through a divorce and has nowhere else to go, and works at a vet clinic while leasing out pasture for her two horses. Tracey is apparently super perfect but a total pushover, an observation made by Randi, who is full of self-loathing because she is super tall and also has massive amounts of trouble with that whole independent thought thing (this last bit being something she is totally unaware of). Anyway, through her connections with Dr. Doolittle, Tracey hears about this horse that's for sale for exactly $300, so Joey, Randi, and Tracey all get into the van and ride out to the bumfuckiest corner of the bumfuck town they live in to see him.

I don't know why Joey goes. Her whole purpose in this book is to be a total bitch and to demonstrate to the reader just how completely devoid of free will Randi is. She bitches and moans the entire ride to this decrepit farm, inhabited by a family called the Walkers, who are tenant farmers because apparently they are stuck in 1932. Mr. Walker is selling this horse, it turns out, because he trains pulling horses and this horse just doesn't fucking want to pull. This does not sit will with Mr. Walker's son Graham, who is the town's resident bad boy and, of course, Randi's age. Scott shortens his name to Gray, but because I think this is a stupid name for a human being and because I could not make myself read it as anything BUT Gary, he will henceforth be known as Gary.

He is super in love with this horse, and he makes sure to let Randi know how much he hates her for taking him away all the way out to the paddock. Then they see the horse. He is a giant, wall-eyed....thing with a roman nose and a black and white splotched coat, and feathers, and big feet. Think a Gypsy Vanner only really ugly. Gary has dubbed this horse Spot. He also obviously expects Randi to run screaming at the sight of him. But because Randi is pretty sure she's ugly and unwanted, she immediately decides they are kindred spirits, and renames the horse Different Drummer on the spot. Drummer because he reminds her of the the horses that carry the drums in Queen Elizabeth's Household Cavalry and Different because he is different, just like her, you guys!!!!

Randi rides Drummer around and he jumps a giant ditch because she is being stupid and asinine and waving at Gary instead of looking, like, forward, and so she's convinced he can jump and takes him home, which pisses Gary off good, you'd better believe it. But once Randi gets Drummer home, she discovers something rather disturbing: the jump was a fluke. Every time she points Drummer at a jump he simply barrels right through it, destroying it. This is kind of a bad thing, and Randi of course has no idea how to solve this completely unbelievable problem.

Meanwhile, everyone goes to a town carnival. Tracey disappears into the arms of the Richest Man with the Biggest Mustache in Town, Clint, and then Joey makes Randi go away. Why, you ask? Because she is positive the quarterback is staring at her and just KNOWS he won't come over to hit on her if she's standing with Randi. Apparently he will assume they are lesbians? Anyway, Randi leaves and runs into Gary. And for some reason they dance the polka together.

I don't know if I've mentioned this but Gary is really creepy and kind of insane. He skips class all the time and throws spitballs at Randi, but despite this she sticks up for him, which for some reason leads to him getting all up in her face and playing with her hair. So after being a big ass hole to her he swoops in at this carnival and gets her to polka, then they run around and ride all the rides and flirt like teenagers generally do, even though Gary goes from soft tenderness to seething rage in a matter of milliseconds, something Randi takes as a personal affront and not a sign of insanity. Her incredibly piercing insight into his deep, dark soul is that he's got a wall up and he really loves Drummer, so she convinces him to come look at the horse to see if they can figure out what's wrong with him.

Because he is magical, Gary figures out what is wrong with Drummer: someone has punished him so severely for jumping in the past that he is afraid of it, so all they have to do is trick him into jumping at the last second and then praise him for it profusely when he does. They do this and he is cured of all his problems in one session. Magical.

Even more magical are the first stirrings of pubescent lust in Randi's loins. Everyone at school is all freaked out because they have heard Randi is hanging out with Gary (after one day?) and he's just scum, and Randi shouldn't hang out with him or she will become scum by association. But Randi is too charmed by Gary's attention and goes home with him the next day, even though everyone, including Randi, is sure he is going to jump her and rape her. Nope, turns out he just wanted to show her some pictures of mice that his dead mom painted. See, he's all fucked up because when his mom was alive a teacher at the high school, Mrs. Pierce, told his mother she'd married down and sent his family a gift basket full of soap when she died, so Gary had to vandalize this teacher's house. And his father can't afford to send him to veterinary school. So now he acts out by shooting spit balls at girls he likes. It's all terribly sad.

Meanwhile, Randi enters a horse show with Drummer and they win. To celebrate, Gary stands on Randi's hair so that she can't move and kisses her. This is of course incredibly erotic for her, even though at this point I think she's still in denial about liking him. Then Gary punches his even-creepier-than-him friend in the face for thinking they slept together and votes for Joey to be a cheerleader. Then Randi thinks that Gary is sleeping with Tracey. Turns out he's just building her some jumps. Then Drummer gets a splinter in his ear and tries to kill himself in his stall, but Gary finds it and all is well. The problems the horse runs into this book are distressingly ill thought out and contrived.

Meanwhile, Joey is very upset because she has so far not been Prom Queen, and of course blames this all on Randi. Randi being friends with Gary is obviously keeping Joey from being gang banged by the entire football team, which would be Joey's dream come true. She tells Randi to stop hanging out with Gary and Randi, convinced she is the selfish one, tells Gary they can't hang out until after prom. Gary, in a brilliant flash of sanity, thinks this is because Randi is in love with someone else and gets all pissed and stops talking to her. In revenge, Randi enters Drummer in another show and wins the open jumper class, qualifying her for some big championship show. That bitch.

So things look okay on the horse front, even though Randi is terribly depressed about this Gary thing because she has realized that she like, oh my gosh, loves him. Then the police find Gary with a stolen car and he might finally be expelled, and Randi flips out. She then convinces the vet to hire Gary sight unseen and despite the fact that he has a horrible reputation, and convinces Clint, who owns the Walker's farm, to get Gary a lawyer. She also gets the teacher whose house he vandalized to see that Gary's acting out is all her fault, so that they can reconcile, and Gary doesn't go to jail. He's still pretty pissed at Randi though, too bad.

Then Drummer decides that every time Randi is going to turn him to the right he is going to rear and buck and generally freak out. She calls the vet to come look at his teeth, and along comes Gary with him, and they realize they are super in love and totally start making out and declaring their love for each other. The vet is appropriately embarrassed. Then they take Drummer over to Gary's dad and he finds a teeny tiny nick on the bit that must have been pinching Drummer when he was being asked to turn right. Problem solved with the horse, and somehow father and son reconciled in there too. Now all is clear for Randi and Drummer to compete in their big show and do exceedingly well. Then Randi tells Gary she'll be staying in the U.S. instead of going back to Europe at the end of the school year and they have sex in a field while Drummer watches. Well, not really, but they are rolling around in a field and you know it's going to happen. The moral of this story is that being different is awesome and you should think for yourself even though everyone around you doesn't and in the end, after being kicked off of ferris wheels, you will triumph and pop your cherry. It fits in there somewhere, trust me.

Points of Interest:
  • While getting ready for the carnival, Joey and Randi spy Tracey getting trying on a "sequined sweater and tight purple pants," which is apparently the outfit she wears when she's trying to win a man. In 1983.
  • Why when we are learning how to dance must we always compare it to following a horse's rhythm while riding?
  • In what is possibly the most erotic scene in any book I have read for this blog so far, Randi hits Gary in frustration and he tells her "I like it when you get physical." Mmm, sado-masochism. Eat your heart out, TB.
Now that this book is over, I think I'll go back to those showcasing prepubescent romance, where in the protagonists don't roll around in the grass gasping out learning how to do "other things" at the age of 15. It's just too totally creepy.

4 comments:

sundae_mourning said...

this was my first foray into horsey romance. my mom bought it for me when i was twelve, because she thought it was more "grown-up" than my favorite Saddle Club books. of course, my mom also reads a ton of Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele, so that should have been my first clue. but i still love this book and actually just reread it a couple weeks ago. i was shocked when i discovered that Tracy was my age, because i remember reading it the first time and thinking she was "zomg, so grown up!"

it does bother me slightly that apparently money is the only barrier to Gray going to vet school. last i heard, even the most glowing reference wasn't enough to overcome barely passing grades.

Mara said...

I am curious as to why Graham = Gray. Mainly because Graham is already one syllable, so what is there to shorten?

Claire said...

haha, sundae that story cracks me up because i'm pretty sure i had to convince my mother this book wasn't smut before she'd buy it for me.

and why would you shorten graham to gray? other than scott's absurd obsession with nicknames, maybe it's because she had to type fewer letters?

Beth said...

This book is great for people who simply wants to read something without over-analysing everything little detail in the book. If you're into analysing and criticising, go read Pride and Prejudice. And no, I'm not saying that Pride and Prejudice is not a good book. It's great. For those who like criticise everything single thing in a book.