Short Stirrup Club #3
By: Allison Estes
Well boys and girls, the reason for my silence on this blog is that for weeks I retreated into a self-imposed exile as a result of my fear of corn. That's right, children. Corn. I decided it was time maybe to read a grown-up book that did not involve female film stars prior to the 1940s, so I dug The Omnivore's Dilemma up off of my "to read" bookshelf and, well, read it. And holy shit, did you know corn is in everything? I mean that quite literally. Practically everything you eat is made of corn (and even if it's not some sort of artificially created food, like say, meat, then the animal you are eating was probably fed a diet consisting almost completely of corn, so you are still eating corn), and so are many things you don't eat. I'm convinced it's an alien species bent on taking over the world by making us all fat and extremely unhealthy. Seriously, corn is super bad for you. But it's still not as gross as chicken. Few things are as gross a chicken. Which are also made of corn. As is the book I'm about to review.
Welcome back to the world of Thistle Poop. These books are just terribly unengaging, so I'm not sure how helpfully informative and/or endlessly amusing this recap will be. I read this book at least two weeks ago, intending to review it for this blog, but was so unenthusiastic about the prospect of reliving that experience that I decided I would rather read about how the unnatural, unsanitary and inhumane industrial food chain is slowly poisoning us and our entire planet (ecologically speaking) to death. If that doesn't say something about how I feel about Thistle Poop and all its constituent denizens, then I don't really know what will.
Thankfully, or not-so-thankfully, the main character of this book is Max Morrison, Christina Reese Megan Morrison's twin brother. While Max is not as whiny and impudent as his sister, he is, in two words, ridiculously boring. He's the strong silent type, I guess, but he's also the bland, two-dimensional type. Don't worry though, there's still plenty of petty angst and self-involved egoism. Enough to (just barely) drive 130 pages of plot.
The thing is that Max has realized, just as recently as the last Thistle Poop book, come to think of it, that he has never fallen off a horse before. He also has a terrifying fear of somehow hurting his horse, Popsicle, while riding, something he can blame on Amanda (crappier Veronica diAngelo) for riding her pony through the mud like a robot and injuring him in a bad way. He's so worried about scenarios involving falling and/or injury that he has begun to have a recurring nightmare about said scenarios, which is pretty freaky I suppose one must admit. This means that he yells at Megan pretty much any time she does anything, because Megan is a daredevil, and in this book there are plenty of opportunities for her to show off her daredeviling skills.
You see, Perfect Pony Instructor Princess Sharon is preparing to ride her two horses in the Atlanta Olympics (rock on, 1996), and the Christina Reese Twins' parents have said that if they can purchase the (hundred million dollar) tickets themselves, then they will foot the rest of the bill for an Olympic visit. Max gets a preadolescent woody every time he thinks of Sharon, so this is like, the biggest dream ever, but neither he nor any of the other Short Shitty Rider Club have any idea how they are going to come up with this money. That is, of course, until Best Friend Probably-"Chunky" Chloe reads a book (apparently she does a lot of this) about gymkhanas, and everyone decides the thing to do is throw a gymkhana to raise money for the tickets. Megan is thrilled because this kind of riding will give her a chance to prove her metaphorical equestrian daredevil penis is larger than everyone else's, and Token 1990s PC Ethnic Character Keith is happy because he rides western, and I guess Chloe is happy because it's her brilliant idea. Pussy Pants Max isn't so thrilled with it, however, but, you know, Olympic tickets = Sharon in tight pants.
The children decide to practice a gymkhana baton passing event, using a crop as a substitute for a baton. Except Megan somewhere in this whole process throws a crop at Popsicle's face/ass and Keith falls off Penny trying to pass his baton because he is incapable of tightening his girth. That kind of hurts. Oops. Max throws a hissy fit about the irresponsibility of everyone involved, but still agrees to the gymkhana, so they go ask Shaman Jake, Sharon's husband, if they can use Thistle Poop for the gymkhana. They ask him, you see, because he is less scary than Sharon, but his response is to tell them to ask Sharon. My response to that was "haha, sucks for them." Then I realized it sucked for me because now Sharon was going to be involved in an actual scene in the book, which meant stammering-worship in person as opposed to from afar. Oh boy.
Unfortunately for Max, our Stupid Stirrup Club gang runs into Amanda on the way to find Sharon. Amanda is screaming up a storm because Prince Charming, her horse, is eating some grain and she can't get away because her hand is stuck in the halter. Yeah, I really have no idea if this was Allison's overactive imagination kicking into high gear, or if she was trying to demonstrate how infinitely dumb this character is supposed to be, but either way I was highly disturbed. Anyway, Max saves the day or something, and Amanda (who is 12 or 11 or 10) throws her arms around Max (who is also 12 or 11 or 10) and kisses him in front of the entire Short Slovenly Club and some other people, totally embarrassing the hell out of him. He runs away to the hay barn to quake in terror, where he finds some kittens. Joy. Here we learn that Sharon's Jack Russell, Earl, and the momma cat, Fancy, completely hate each other and try to kill each other at every opportunity. This is a plot point that will become important later on, so please make note of it.
Anyway, Keith finds Max and promises he won't ever tell anyone about Amanda kissing Max, especially Keith's older sister Haley, who is a gigantic bitch with a hideous haircut. This problem solved (unfortunately, I am not referring to the hideous haircut), the Squat Stirrup Club finally asks Sharon about the gymkhana, and of course she says yes, having no problem with letting four 10 year olds run a large event on her property. Excellent. She even agrees to supply tickets to the Olympics to the winning team. She is very endearing.
Off they all traipse to plan everything. Max is still unenthusiastic about this whole thing, and that night he has his terrible falling dream again. He wakes up early and bikes to Thistle Poop, determined to talk to Sharon because he is sure she will help him resolve his fear. She is getting ready to ride Quasar, her dressage horse that Max absolutely adores. Max is just about to ask her to help him defeat his personal demons when Megan shows up and interrupts, eager to get to work planning the gymkhana. Poor Max. While I don't necessarily emphasize with his plight, his sister really is totally annoying.
As opposed to doing any planning, Max shows his sister the kittens. Keith shows up looking very strange. Then Max gets to ride Quasar. Sharon sees him watching her train, obviously notices the giant boner he has for her horse, and decides she will let the 10 year old cool out her OLYMPIC HORSE. So she boosts Max into the saddle and then leaves him alone, unsupervised in the ring. Max is like, totally beside himself, except them Haley and her friend Taylor show up and start whispering ominously at ringside. Then Amanda shows up and his spidey sense really stars tingling. Sure enough, bad haircut and her boyfriend start taunting Max about Amanda kissing him. Turns out Keith told his sister. Bastard. Then, for absolutely no reason, Fancy and Earl decide to have a terrible fight right under Quasar. Max almost falls in front of his tormentors, but super Sharon saves the day. Max then jumps off and runs into the hay barn to sob and sob at the terrible plight that has befallen him. It really isn't an Allison Estes book unless someone cries.
Max wasn't the only one getting in touch with his girly side. Keith is also in the hay barn, hiding in a canoe. There's no way to explain that. He confesses to Max that he told Hayley and Max is instantly furious. I don't really blame him. He's totally pissy about it over the next few weeks while their team prepares for the gymkhana. Amanda comes to watch one day and laments that no one will be on her team. Yet another plot point. This book is heavy on the exposition. Anyway, one day Megan does a sliding stop in front of Popsicle, which sprays dirt all over his hindquarters. He spooks, Max almost falls, and at this point he's had enough. He quits the team.
Megan is not pleased. She calls him a chicken, then reminds him about the Olympic tickets, but he is tired of his friends/family disrespecting him, so he tells Megan to ask Amanda to be on the team, and then cries again. Megan takes him up on his dare and Amanda joins the Short Smarmy Club's team. Max goes to watch the gymkhana, and of course his old team is doing the best, despite the fact that Amanda is a terrible rider on a horse that she can't control. And, of course, their only competition is Tyler's team. Eye roll.
Then, during an obstacle course, Megan does something really dumb and gives herself a concussion. Oh no her team won't win the tickets. Except Max steps in and joins the team in her place, riding like a total daredevil, holding hands with Amanda in the final round and totally showing up Tyler to win the Olympic tickets. Joy. Then Fancy and Earl fight right under Popsicle and Max falls off for the first time ever, also solving that problem. Amanda gives him her ticket because her daddy can buy her one and now everyone can go to the Olympics. The end.
Points of Interest:
- Max is the first character in the history of ever that actually thinks dressage is super awesome. Though this partly stems from his fear of doing anything remotely dangerous, good for him.
- Sharon is the best rider ever and the best trainer ever and her lipstick is totally perfect and Max thinks to himself that if he were a grown-up he would think she was pretty. Clearly he doesn't quite understand yet the concept of lust. And also, why does this character have to be like this. I mean, why? I can remember hating her even when I was 11.
- At one point Amanda says to Max, "I just knew you were a nice boy, even if you are a Yankee." Really? Seriously?