Aug 1, 2008

What do horses and virginity have in common? Nothing.

Flying Changes
by Lynn Hall
Published: 1991

I swear I am going to get to A Home For Melanie soon. My library is failing me. Perhaps I will just have to skip it and move on to Cassidy's Secret, which just sits with all the other books, looking all enticing with its horrible cover. Yet, I am inclined to read them in order. Why do I have this horrible inability to skip books? It's not like I can't backtrack, for Christ's sake.

Well, in the meantime I am going to review this.

Denny had never known life could be so complicated. She has spent most of her seventeen years living happily with Gramma B., seeing her father, Doe, during his breaks from the rodeo circuit. Then Tyler, Doe's young roping partner, stays at the ranch for a while, leaving Denny wildly but uncertainly in love. While Denny is sorting out her feelings, she and Gram receive the disturbing news that Doe has been seriously injured in a rodeo accident, and Denny's long-absent mother, Rita, insists on rejoining the family and taking care of her "poor, crippled husband." As Denny struggles with love and loyalty, she is also attempting to ease the family's financial straits by training a star roping horse for a wealthy buyer. The much needed sale depends on the tricky flying lead change, and there is only one anxious week for the horse to learn the skill. As difficult as that may be, the sudden flying changes in Denny's own life may be even harder to master.
The book's summary is rather ho-hum, don't you think? I much prefer the School Library Journal's synopsis:

The versatile Hall presents an earthy, first-person narrative for her more mature fans. Denny, 17, thrives in an unorthodox Kansas family. Gramma B. runs the household till rodeoin' Daddy's injured and his prodigal wife (Denny's mom, Rita) returns to take her revenge. The story's theme is relationships between men and women, and how they shift from love to resentment. Denny herself is caught in the shift when she lusts after a sexy cowboy who loves her and leaves her. While coming to terms with her feelings, she busies herself with training a young horse. The horse's problem with flying lead changes gives the book its title and symbolizes the shaky foundations of love--Denny's, Gramma's, Daddy's, and Rita's.
That's the synopsis that convinced me to read this book. Prodigal wife come to wreak havoc on her "rodeoin'," yet injured, husband? Lusting after a sexy cowboy who's at the center of a love her and leave her plot? Well, I'll happily read that. It has a tortured soap opera feel to it, which is entirely off and completely not what the book is about at all. Despite that, it definitely reeled me in. I blame this on the fact that I can actually remember when Bo and Hope of Days of our Lives sailed off on Fancy Face for their round the world excursion in 1987. When I was six. Six-ish. I could have been five.

Well, anyway. Denny, who has a very unfortunate name, is from Kansas. Which I actually didn't really pick up on from the book, but there you have it. Kansas. Where it is dusty and windy and dry and monotonous. I've driven through Kansas...and that's all I've really got to say about it. Which I think is a favorable opinion, really. So, Denny is seventeen and working on this pretty little filly that just has a mental block about doing a flying lead change without stumbling all over herself and nearly falling down. Sun B-Q is her name, by Denny's father's stud, Bar B-Q. Tyler (the sexy cowboy) has a mare called Suzie B-Q (which I find adorable for some reason). I guess these are quarter horses, otherwise these names would make little sense to me. So anyway, Sunny hasn't been figuring out the flying lead change, despite nearly a month of training, and she's got an interested buyer and a price tag of $3,500...if Denny can get her to do this lead change. The buyer will be there in a week, and if the filly performs, Denny gets a nice fat check and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Denny is an extremely likable character. A HUGE change for me in the history of this blog. She's been through her loving a horse to death phase when her horse, Arrow, died of colic about a year previous, and is now officially learning the ropes of adulthood by training up these horses for her father so she can sell them for large chunks of money. Oh, and also? She sort of slept with Tyler and lost her virginity and is feeling a little conflicted because she knew it was probably a mistake that just compounds itself when Tyler starts to wave around his true colors and high tails it out of the ranch and back to the rodeo circuit so he can start earning some cash and sleep with all the dirty rodeo groupies.

This, of course, everyone saw coming. Even Denny. She first met Tyler a year and a half ago, when her father carried him into the house because he was drunk and unconscious. Nice. Only he's really pretty. Like...Shoshone/Irish/Norwegian pretty. And he somehow has dark blond hair that shades into black without the aid of dye. I don't understand that, but Tyler somehow manages it. Tyler is her dad's roping partner, and Denny sort of falls into this giant crush that goes nowhere until Suzie B-Q gets injured and Tyler wanders back to the ranch for a month to wait for the mare to heal up and try to train a new horse just in case she doesn't heal fast enough for the championship whatsitcalled or something. Her dad is still on the circuit, leaving Tyler to play with whatever he wants. Denny allows this because she's fallen in love/lust with his awesome hotness. Can't blame her, really. Only then Tyler leaves and she's all frustrated and pissed off at herself for still sort of being in love with him.

Then Denny's dad has to go break his back because he drunkenly climbed onto the bucking stalls at the rodeo in order to hang a bra from a giant clock. Denny's dad is, shall we say, an immature jackass. Only you sort of like him despite his jackassery. He goes to rodeos and sleeps with the groupies and Denny was a product of one of these unions, forcing him to marry a groupie that he was never faithful to, causing all sorts of bitterness. This is Rita. Who has been long absent. He calls up Rita, probably during the middle of a morphine-induced fog of confusion, and asks for help. So Rita shows up in Kansas, causing all sorts of turmoil with Gramma B., who moves out.

Eventually Denny's dad gets to come home from the hospital, and he's paralyzed from the waist down. Denny worries a bit about money and about how Sunny is still being as clumsy as humanly possible. Only they have this saddle store that Rita is in the midst of converting into a full out western wear shop with her little dog grooming business in the back, and is suddenly making money. So hey, who knew. These people actually can be successful, even if Rita has her heart set on sleeping with every man with a working penis just to piss off Denny's dad. Whoring yourself out is the best revenge. I guess.

Anyway, in the midst of all this are nice little discussions between Denny and her grandmother, best friend (Sue), mother, and father. There's even one talk that strikes a chord between Denny and her father's best friend, Hoyt. All which reassure Denny about who she is and help her get over Tyler, who is, yes, a complete jackass. Sexy, sure, but Brad Townsend he is not. (I mean, who possibly could be?) So, coming down to the end, Denny meets the buyer and rides Sunny for him, and Sunny seems to have ironed out all her kinks because she's feeling pretty feisty and happy that morning for her audience, and manages the flying lead change. The buyer is pleased, tries her out for himself, and leaves with a horse. Denny has her $3,500, gets to pay her father's medical expenses, and everything looks like it's going to work out. Also, Tyler? Tyler who? Nice, Denny. It's only a week later, I think you remember his last name, but your new found confidence is satisfying.

  • My biggest gripe: the book takes place over one week. I just don't see this as a realistic time frame for getting over the guy you're supposedly in love with and gave your virginity to. Unless Denny is super composed, which she really isn't. She's got a lot of self-doubt raging inside of her. She's got a pretty stiff upper lip, though. Maybe it's believable, but I would have liked to see this book be a little longer and over a longer span of time.
  • Denny's parents. Rita tells Denny's dad basically that she's come back to help out, although really she's just going to irritate the his pride by flirting and/or sleeping with every man she comes into contact with. There's nothing built on this except for a conversation between Gramma B. and Denny regarding how Denny's parents are basically children and will probably figure it out eventually. This wasn't too hot. I expected more.
  • I loved Denny's friendship with Sue. Sue isn't into horses. In fact, she's all in love with swimming. Yet there's this nice scene where Denny informs us all about the time when Sue's cat died and then Arrow died so the two decided to do just what they did with Sue's cat and dug a giant hole to bury Arrow in, so they had blisters on their hands for two weeks. I just liked that.
  • Not a huge book about horses, exactly. The horses are there, but this isn't an "ohmigosh what would I ever do without Insert Horse Name Here?!" book. Denny doesn't fall in love with Sunny. She sells Sunny. Which is fine with me.
Okay, so I really liked this book. It's not exactly perfect, but it's a solid young adult read. So I'm going to stop talking about it now. Good. Perhaps I'll get a Thoroughbred book reviewed next.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I'm looking forward to your review of A Home For Melanie! It's one of the NewGen books that I have a weird affinity for (possibly because it has basically nothing to do with horses).