Jul 14, 2008

There's nothing worse than Christina Reese except for her doppleganger.

Blue Ribbon Friends
Allison Estes
Short Stirrup Club #1
Originally Published: 1996

So the Christina of Allison Estes's tenure was pretty unbearable, yeah? Surely she must be unique? Well, unfortunately it turns out Estes has a talent for making all of her female protagonists unbearable brats. And does so with what almost appears to be relish.

This cover really creeps me out. Mostly it's the fact that I think all the kids look terrifying. In fact, I attribute 98% of this to the mushroom/bowl cuts the boys are sporting (that's right, there are boys in these books). Other than the fantastic fashions and facial expressions, when examined closely every single person looks photoshopped into the picture. Either these high class models weren't all available on the same day, or having all these kids pose at once so stupidly with this poor pony was some sort of liability. Also, nowhere in this book is there a dog.
Starting Over

Megan Morrison, her twin brother Max, and their horses, Pixie and Posicle, have just arrived at Thistle Ridge Farm. Max has already met Keith Hill, a great guy with a mare even Popsicle loves! But Megan has found nothing but trouble. Then she meets Chloe, who dreams of having a horse of her own. It's instant friendship - and trouble in the show ring - as Megan decides to turn Chloe into a champion and make her dreams come true.
For those of us who don't know, the inside cover helpfully informs us that short stirrup is a division in horse shows, open to riders twelve and under. Additional requirements may vary from show to show. What we learn from this, other than this incredibly boring definition, is that all of our main characters are 12 and under, which is younger than we TB series readers are used to in general. And yes, these children run unsupervised around the barn and also go on unsupervised trail rides, things I can't imagine being allowed to do at that age myself. Anyways.

I'm not sure where to start: the plot or ripping the characters to shreds. I decided to order this book off of amazon.com a while back, and boy am I glad it only cost me one cent plus shipping. I remember buying these books when they first came out. I believe I read them all dutifully. I have clear memories of sitting under various trees at various parks reading through them while my brother played baseball. I hated going to those stupid games, and so I guess I decided the anger my memory of these books provoked was because of the games, not because these books suck. Hard. So I was excited for this book to come in the mail, then I read it, and I realized that thinking of these books made me angry because they suck. Hard. Or at least this one does.

As stated in the blurb, Megan and her brother have just moved to Tennessee from Connecticut with their parents. Their mother, an orthopedic surgeon, was offered a job at a prestigious hospital and decided to take it. Max is very upset by this, and when he demands to know why they can't stay in Connecticut, Mrs. Dumb Ass I MEAN Morrison explains that there just isn't a need for orthopedic surgeons in Connecticut. No, I'm not making that up. That is the reason this woman gives her son for moving. For those of you keeping score, that is minus 50 Allison Estes, and we are only 6 pages into the book.

If you hadn't gathered, the simpering starts early. Max is all pissed because he and his horse, Popsicle (so named because he loves to eat Popsicles), were just one itsy bitsy win away from being some sort of junior show champion, and moving means they are going to miss the last show of the season. Boo fucking hoo. Why won't you cry about it. Oh wait, you are? God damn. Boys don't cry, you sissy pants. Ask Dylan, he knows.

ANYWAY, even though Max is all bitchy about the whole moving thing, his twin sister Megan couldn't be more overjoyed. Their new barn is just going to be so wonderful and there will be lots of new friends and horses and ice cream bars and dear God isn't it going to be GREAT??? I'll inform you right now that Megan is annoying. Really, really, really annoying. She makes Christina look like a DREAM. All the way to the barn she's screaming and orgasming over every single blade of grass. Look, they didn't have blades of grass like THAT in Connecticut! OH my! The barn is just sooooooooooo big! In between her exclaiming over new things she manages to find plenty of time to yell at her dad about how he is driving, and during this agnozingly shrill and drawn-out introduction scene I had plenty of time to begin digging a spoon into my temple.

So like I mentioned, the barn is soooooooo big, and it turns out it belongs to Sharon Wyndham, some great big shot USET Olympic level show jumper that Megan idolizes sooooo much that she didn't even know the name of the barn she owns. I will state right now that Sharon is the biggest bitch ever, and clearly a Mary Sue instructor of Ms. Estes herself. We are all clearly supposed to adore Sharon in her infinite wisdom but I hate her and I don't care if she farts Olympic gold medals, I still wouldn't want to ride with her.

Getting back to the plot, Megan gets off on the right foot immediately by telling the first random lady she meets that she'll ride her horse for her, because this lady has just fallen off. Apparently Megan used to ride all the problem horses back in Connecticut. The woman is pretty pissed off that some eleven year old girl is offering to school her horse, and rightfully so. But we are supposed to hate this woman because it turns out she is the rich bitch mom of the snotty antagonist at the barn and everyone just hates her, even though Megan was just completely rude to her in a rather unprovoked way. Instead of feeling sorry for Megan, I want to punch her. So for those of you still keeping score, this is Estes minus 180.

Adding insult to injury (for Megan, and for us readers too, really, because this means more complaining) there is no pony jumpers class in Thistle Ridge's upcoming horse show, which is what Megan always competes in because all the other classes are just sooo boring or way too hard.

Meanwhile Max has met this guy who owns a mare that looks exactly like Max's horse OMG isn't that just GREAT? They are best friends because of this and completely ignore Megan as they talk and get to know each other. Once again, we're supposed to feel sorry for Megan because isn't her bother being such a jerk??? Isn't HE???? Yeah, except instead of going over and talking to them herself, Megan basically sits there and waits for them to talk to her and gets all pissy about it when they don't. When they go on a trail ride the next day that she invited herself on, she spends plenty of time randomly interjecting into their conversation to brag about herself and is puzzled when neither boy responds to her.

Gosh, they're just being so awful. So awful that Megan jumps her pony unsupervised, who then spooks at a deer and bolts all the way back to the barn, jumping in and out of paddock fences. Of course Sharon Wyndham witnesses the whole thing and Megan is just aghast but not aghast enough to keep from asking for a lesson. Sharon basically calls Megan a spoiled, inconsiderate, crappy rider, and then says, sure, I'd love to teach you! Joy to the world.

I think somewhere in here Megan runs into Amanda, the resident Veronica diAngelo. Amanda owns a $20,000 push button pony her parents bought for her and is one ribbon away from being some sort of super champion but is basically a whiny robot who pretends she has fractured toes to get out of riding. Yeah, I still like her better than Megan.

After the bolting incident Megan gets mad because Keith and Max didn't come galloping immediately to the rescue and fawn all over her. She remains mad when she finds out it's because Jake Wyndham told them she was okay. She feels so sorry for herself she goes and has a huge cry, but luckily for her this girl named Chloe comes over, and Chloe is even more pathetic than Megan. Her pants don't fit and she doesn't even own her own horse. She has to ride - DREAD - school horses! Oh my god, she might as well have syphilis. Wrap her in a condom and set her on fire before it catches, quick.

Megan has such a charitable heart though, and she decides she's going to My Fair Lady this bitch up so she can win Thistle Ridge's big show and beat Amanda. See, Chloe is totally in love with Amanda's pony and takes care of him for Amanda. So uh...nyah.

The day of the big show comes after Megan has made sure that Chloe is wearing pants that fit. Then the show happens, people win some things, huzzah. In one class Amanda cuts Chloe off and ruins her chance at a ribbon so Megan gets pretty pissed. She just has to beat Amanda. Except in a later class Amanda carelessly canters her pony through the mud because she is a robot, and the pony falls and tears some ligaments. Amanda's father says the horse should be put down because he is a Cruel and Heartless Rich Bastard, but Megan convinces him to give this $20,000 pony to Chloe. Supposedly he does this because he is happy he doesn't have to pay the vet to put the pony down. I don't buy this because if this man knew someone wanted to buy this pony I'm sure he'd try to recoup some of his worth. But yeah, everyone has to get their horse in the end in the most stupid way possible. This is Estes, after all.

In a touching moment of realism, Chloe realizes she can't afford to pay board for the pony, but Sharon says this TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL can work it off by pulling manes or something. Because Sharon is a Mary Sue Angel Godmother. How is she going to pay for the vet bills while the horse is recuperating, I wonder? I probably shouldn't because we will never know. The book is over and everyone is still as obnoxious as ever only now Chloe has pants that fit and her own very injured pony, which is somehow supposed to redeem Megan's spoiled-bratness but totally doesn't. The end.

Points of Interest:
  • When Max and Megan are looking around the barn for the first time, Max points out that there are no ponies and therefore this must be an old person barn (even though he himself has a horse?). Beware, Morrison twins...you're not in an old person barn, you've just entered....TBVerse, ahhhh!!!!
  • For some reason Allie the groom switches between regular English and a grossly offensive hick vernacular replete with completely incorrect grammar, rendered so that it reads as if it's coming out of some sort of stereotypical dialect written by ignorant screenwriters in the 1930s. Perhaps I've been reading too much about the portrayal of minorities in films for an exhibit I'm working on, but really, why is this woman from New York even attempting a southern dialect? Why are these books set in Tennessee in the first place?
  • Chloe doesn't want a horse she wants a pony. That is cool, but something about the way Estes writes her infantalizes her, which is just as infuriating as reading a book written from Pretty Equine Princess Megan's point of view.
  • During Max and Megan's lesson with Sharon, Sharon snaps at Megan not to talk during the lesson unless directly spoken to so that they will hear everything she has to say to them. I'm sorry bitch, but ten years old or not, I would not accept that kind of treatment from a riding instructor. I mean, WTF? Can you make my horse grow wings and fly away? No? Okay, then take your stupid power trip crap and stuff it back up your ass, you freaking egotistical Mary Sue. No wonder Megan idolizes you. You're Pretty Equine Princess Version Adult. If you are so obsessed with having respect, why don't you respecting others, freak? God.
In conclusion, I bought this book off amazon.com, as mentioned, and it is actually signed by Allison Estes. I'm not sure how I feel about this. She signed it "reading and riding forever!" a fine sentiment if you're reading books that aren't defiled by incredibly spoiled and unbearable main characters, i.e., books written by Estes. Unless they're Melanie books. Then I suppose they are acceptable. At least in comparison to this. And on one last note, why do these stupid people always need to form clubs? Why can't they ever just be friends? Huh?


Monique said...

Did you get your Free Short Stirrup Club Eraser, Claire? :D I think that is sad, but not as sad as that spate of TB books promising visits to Thorougbred Farms or a Free Saddle!!!! All of which I was too old to enter anyway, motherfuckers. They really should've done some indepth market research into the demographic of their readers. I'd have liked to have won a Date With Brad Townsend!

Claire said...

i'm pretty sure i still have erasers from when i originally bought the books laying around my house somewhere.

Heather said...

Are you going to review more of these books? Anything to make New Gen look good afterall. I never read this series, but your review made me laugh.

Claire said...

well, reviewing them would mean purchasing them and than suffering what i just KNOW will be the pain of reading them. but seeing as i willing put myself through not one but two allie books, i'd say your chances are pretty good i will do a few more, perhaps from the library. though i don't know about all ten. that might just be too much to bear. plus, i have a fear allison estes will happen upon the vitriolic reviews and give me a stern talking to. And I'm really glad I made you laugh :D

Anonymous said...

OMG! These were the books I was thinking of the other day! I couldnt remember the nane, but I know in one of them a girl rides her horse through a drive thru.