Aug 9, 2008

Yes, you too can get everything you want by moping: A Home For Melanie

A Home For Melanie
by Alice Leonhardt
Thoroughbred #31
Published: 1998

Oh my God, after long last I have finally read this book. How long did I await this book at the library, and, more importantly, why on earth was I waiting so long? Really, there's no rational explanation for this, so I'll just move on to the installment.

I hate these covers. Seriously, they're worse than those later covers that look like someone was doodling with a colored pencil set. This cover makes me think someone went to the trouble of actually producing artwork that was then handed off to some novice graphic designer who had no clue how to operate Photoshop properly so they could blur up Trib's body, superimpose someone's face on whoever is riding that horse, and then blacked out Trib's eye for reasons only known to the designer. I fail to see how this is supposed to look good. On top of all of that, let's focus for a moment on Melanie's outfit. Actually, no, scratch that. Let's focus on her jacket, shall we? What is this purple monstrosity? And, you know, it's not just the fact that it's purple. It's purple and fringed. Fringed. And it's probably suede. Purple fringed suede. I just don't think you can recover from that.

Is Melanie leaving the only place that's ever felt like home?

Melanie Graham expected Whitebrook Farm to be the most boring place in America. And she thought her cousin, Christina Reese, would be a snob.

But after an entire summer at Whitebrook, Melanie has changed her mind. Whitebrook isn't dull--it's amazing! There are so many beautiful horses, especially Trib, her favorite pony. Plus, Christina is totally cool--she's the first true friend Melanie has ever had. Now Melanie can't imagine living anywhere else.

There's just one problem: Melanie's dad wants her to return to New York City. How can she convince him to let her stay at Whitebrook--forever?

Oh, you guys, the summer that will not end is finally drawing to a close. Previously, summers used to take about three chapters of time. The early New Generation stretched this one out for eight books. The cover of this book seems to insist that it is actually fall, but we know better. It's still summer. It's the summer that will not freaking end. Although, thankfully, Cassidy's Secret seems to involve snow, so some end must be in sight for this season. Although for all I know it's probably just late September, and the cover artists were getting really sick of drawing summer greenery and began acting out.

Okay, so this book pretty much convinced me that Melanie is a masochist. Allow me to explain. Summer is drawing to a close, meaning that Christina is going to go back to school and Melanie is going to have to go back to New York. You know, where her dad lives. Realizing that she will have to leave Whitebrook Farm, Melanie writes up a list of reasons why she should stay in Kentucky in order to convince her dad that she no longer belongs in New York. Where he, her father, is. There's some talk about how Ashleigh and Mike would have to become Melanie's legal guardians if she stays, and Ashleigh urges Melanie to really think this through before she tries to convince her dad. Not that this helps. Her dad wants her back in New York because he's getting married in a week's time, and he wants to give Melanie the family she hasn't had since her mom died. All perfectly logical.

So Melanie prepares to leave Whitebrook. Everyone throws her a goodbye party, and Ashleigh gives Tribulation to Melanie under the stipulation that she'll return the pony to Whitebrook when she outgrows him. Kevin kisses Melanie, resulting in tween swooning before everyone climbs into the plane and heads off to New York for the wedding. Her dad and Susan get married and Melanie discovers that Aynslee is really annoying and her other friend, Heather, suddenly grew breasts over the summer, treating us to a very brief moment of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret before Melanie remembers she's a Thoroughbred character and proceeds to go about her business of sulking and complaining to herself about how life isn't fair. Christina and her parents go back to Whitebrook, leaving Melanie in New York with Trib, who is not pleased with his new digs at Clarebrook at all. Melanie's none too pleased either because everyone at Clarebrook thinks she's a horse killer and are treating her like the plague. Even her old instructor, Jonathon, wants nothing to do with her. Because even minor adult characters in this series are petty jerks.

The only friend Melanie has is Bettina, a twenty-year-old German student at Columbia who's riding her horse at Clarebrook. Bettina and Melanie become trail riding partners, only on their first ride these two kids Melanie just happen to know shoot fireworks in the direction of the horses and Bettina falls off and sprains her ankle. Pissed at these two kids, Melanie calls their parents and tattles on them, setting the chain of events in motion. The two kids tell Aynslee, who falls into league with them and gets back at Melanie by drawing a mustache on Abraham Lincoln's portrait in the main hall of their school. Melanie gets blamed for this, and instead of coming out with the entire story of how the painting was defaced, Melanie stays silent and takes the blame. Aynslee is thrilled, but Melanie is in deep trouble. Her dad tells her that if she goes back to her crazy ways he'll ground her and basically send Trib back to Whitebrook.

Trib, meanwhile, continues to grow more and more depressed by his surroundings and stops eating. Melanie, as per the usual, doesn't tell anyone about this because that would mean she'd have to fess up about not being happy. Trib then has to suffer some more as Melanie slowly slips into depression with her pony. She's so bored and depressed that she takes Aynslee up on the offer of a slumber party. Which, much to my disappointment, is just a slumber party and not some attempt to rob a store or launder money or be generally annoying in an evil prepubescent way. Only Melanie does want to do something fun because she's all depressed so what do they do? Aynslee takes them to the roof of her apartment building. And they do a moon dance. And this is totally against the rules and the cops come.


Yeah...frankly I think that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of, but whatever. Melanie, pissed off at Aynslee for putting her on course for a severe punishment which means Trib will be taken away, storms out of the apartment complex before the cops get her and runs all the way back home. If this was a movie, right about here we'd have a montage of the girl running down the street to music by Coldplay or something all soul searching as she discovers the answer to all her problems but can't do anything because she's a masochist. This is Melanie's life: making sure everyone is happy before thinking about herself, thereby making herself miserable but "happy" because others are happy. Some might call this unselfishness. I, clearly, do not.

So Melanie goes back to Clarebrook and discovers that Trib is totally shutting down. Horrified, she calls Bettina's vet and the vet tells her that Trib is basically depressed. Upset by this, Melanie decides that it's time to do the right thing for Trib and prepares to tell her father that Trib has to go back to Whitebrook. Only her dad comes along and is all shocked by the pony's state and immediately applies it to Melanie before she has to come clean with anything and basically tells her he's going to send her back to Whitebrook because he's been the selfish one. Or something like that. I really find the whole end unbelievable, but this is Alice Leonhardt and it's the Thoroughbred Series. Characters get everything they want at the end of every book with a quick two page conversation that's mainly one-sided, giving everything to the main character with little to no work on their part. It's brilliant and horrible all at once.

Remarkably enough, I don't really have any points of interest collected for this book. I think I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how lame the great turning point was. Climbing up onto the apartment roof at night in New York? Please. People have wedding receptions on rooftops in New York. I've climbed around on an apartment roof in New York while drinking at 2am. I am not at all impressed with this. But then again, these kids also thought tipping over trash cans and spraying people with soda is serious juvenile delinquent business. At least, that was before Melanie became a Thoroughbred character and realized that being somber and humorless was more rewarding than being a typical twelve-year-old.

Oh, here's one point:

  • Cindy is mentioned for the first time since Cindy's Honor. Apparently she's been living in New York for some time and while Ashleigh and all are in New York for the wedding there's a mention of going to Belmont to visit her. Weirdly enough people actually want to see her. Why still remains a mystery.

So, I'm off to read Cassidy's Secret next. Apparently horse racing appears in this book? I don't really see how this is possible considering Cassidy is like the most perfect of perfect riding princesses everywhere. Naturally I cannot wait to read it.


Elizabeth said...

This cover is a total mystery to me. I've always thought it looked like someone was trying to give the impression that Melanie and Trib are crossing the temporal barrier or something, or having a flashback to a cold case in which Melanie's mother was murdered and there are no clues but now Lilly Rush is going to reopen the case, except there's no time-travel or Cold Case in this book.

Molly said...

I'm so glad you guys are back in business!

This book annoyed me so very much. But then, I live in NYC, and as much as I love horses, there's no WAY I'd pass up boarding my horse in the city (well, it's impossible now that Claremont's closed, but there's a place in Brooklyn, and there must be others) over living on a farm.