Sep 10, 2008

Dead Heat: Because it's more fun if we could all be winners.

Dead Heat
Thoroughbred #35
by Alice Leonhardt
Published: 1999

Um. So here's this book:

I believe Claire pointed out the silk blouses on this cover, and I'd just like to echo that observation. Because, seriously, what's going on here? On top of which, shouldn't they look like they're blowing around in the breeze, given how loose they are? Other than that, this is a scene from the book, which I don't know why I bother to point his out because it's not like it matters.

Galloping head to head...

Melanie Graham is thrilled. She loves exercise riding, and she's good at it, too! Her aunt Ashleigh says Melanie would make a great jockey - she's really thriving at Whitebrook.

But Melanie's not alone. Her friend Kevin McLean also wants to exercise-ride, and soon Melanie an Kevin are galloping together on the Whitebrook track. Racing for fun turns serious as Melanie becomes more and more competitive, testing their friendship to the limit. Kevin thinks Melanie is pushing herself too hard. Will she slow down before it's too late?
One thing I had a hard time with during this book was the complete spasticness (if that's not a word, it is now) of the plot. Sure, there is a bit of a rivalry between Kevin and Melanie, but it's not like that was going anywhere, and half the time Melanie seemed pretty confused about it. This equaled extreme boredom on my part, which is why it's taken me so long to get around to posting this review. It actually took me over a week to wander my way through this book, much to my shame. Although I imagine it's going to be worse for me when I go through Ashleigh's Hope. Just looking at that book makes me sigh.

Well, moving on. Melanie wants to be a jockey, so she's daydreaming about winning the Kentucky Derby all the time and is falling back on her school work. Everyone knows this is what she's doing, but no one really seems to care enough to smack her, tell her she's thirteen, and really she can eat like a normal teenager because she isn't jockeying anything for three years. Seriously, kid, you can live on more than half an English muffin and a tablespoon of yogurt right now. But because Naomi has scared Melanie into believing that she has to start exercising and ruining her body now instead of three years from now, Melanie is taking her anorexic spin seriously. People sort of notice, but yeah, no one really holds an intervention or anything. They just let her continue on, sucking at school and trying desperately to fit into the Cindy mold, which is proof positive, again, that Ashleigh is a horrible guardian. How Christina turned out relatively balanced in all the Melanie books is anyone's guess (of course, this is followed by Christina being a relative pain in the ass in all of her books, so it's a toss up, really. Maybe Ashleigh just sucks at being a parent in general.)

Lately, Kevin has been being a jerk for mysterious reasons. Again, no one really notices or acts like it's a big deal besides Melanie, who reacts by trying to one up Kevin in their exercising horses and trying to groom the special horses and what all. Samantha and Ian buy this Wind Chaser horse, who is god in the form of a horse, and Melanie and Kevin compete to be the horse's groom (Where are the god damned grooms at Whitebrook?), and Melanie gets the job seemingly randomly (well, totally randomly) and Kevin is further pissy.

Melanie continues to suck at school, and she gets her mid term grades only to discover she's failing two classes. She manages to side step Ashleigh easily enough for a day or two, but eventually Ashleigh acts smart finally and calls the school, resulting in learning the grades and forcing Melanie to call her father, who does as much long distance parenting as he can to make up for Ashleigh's huge amount of tremendous fail. Ashleigh and Will come up with a contract that will force Melanie to realize she needs a life outside of the farm and trying to be a jockey before she can actually be a jockey. You'd think Ashleigh would have seen the signs of Melanie pulling a Cindy, but not so much. Melanie grudgingly accepts the contract and accepts the fact that she's going to be forced to attend this camp out with her friends. God, who wants to deal with friends on a consistent basis? It would be so much better to just sit and mope in the barn without human companionship.

So she's forced to go on the camping trip and eventually everyone gets stuck in the woods somewhere and Melanie has to save the day with Kevin, forcing the two to come to terms with their completely random problems. Turns out Kevin is annoyed that Melanie traded in her fun personality with the moping personality of a completely uninteresting middle aged woman, and Kevin is not attracted to that. And he was kind of pissed off that his dad bought Wind Chaser the wonder horse without his say (like...uh, what? Kevin, you're twelve. What reasonable adult consults their twelve-year-old son on a multi million dollar racing prospect? If you're not the Townsends, I should say?). And he was annoyed that Melanie was being all uppity and competitive. And this is why he's dating Heather now. So Melanie and Kevin are back to being friends and Melanie learns that interpersonal relationships are more important than sitting around moping in a barn with no one to talk to.

  • This is basically Arabian Challenge rewritten for Melanie. Melanie wants to be a jockey, she spends too much time with horses and not enough time realizing she's only 13, her friendships suffer, Melanie acts like a brat, and then the message is rammed home in the end. Only there is a message in this book. There was no message in Arabian Challenge that wasn't friends and winning are important. You can have your cake and eat it too! That, at least, doesn't happen here.
  • Stoney/Stone is sold. Random, but appreciated. I'll give Alice that.
  • Alice spends a lot of time on damage control from On the Track. You can just tell. She has to explain the foal that Lois shoved in there, saying there is no way this foal is going to have a logical career (well, basically) because she was an unfortunate fall foal. I just got a kick out of that.
  • Seriously, Ian empties his savings to buy this Wind Chaser with Samantha? Tor and Beth both thought it was a bad idea, so this seems forced to the point of ridiculousness.
  • Mr. Wonderful gets a shout out because Wind Chaser looks just like him. Alice calls Mr. Wonderful the best sire at Whitebrook Farm, only she gets him completely confused with Wonder's Pride. I appreciate that Alice names Mr. Wonderful as the best sire at the farm, because I can really see that happening. However, she's confusing the two mainly because Wind Chaser has the flaxen mane, just like Mr. Wonderful. Pride was just a boring old chestnut. Sorry, Alice.
  • I am convinced now that Kevin and Melanie had no real relationship. Which is fine with me because they are way too young to be taking this junk that seriously.
  • Ashleigh sucks so hard at being a guardian. Really. She's a complete push over. Not doing well in school? Don't worry, Ashleigh was bad too! Doing something completely unrealistic with your horse? Don't worry, Ashleigh bucked tradition too! And Ashleigh takes this like a punch to the face every time.
  • I also find it incredibly annoying that no matter what Ashleigh dresses in she always looks like "a little kid." This just disturbs me in general. 36 isn't old, but is isn't 12 either. I don't care if she's wearing a headband, a baseball hat, or lace underwear, okay? It's just creepy.
But, yeah, this was a pretty dull installment. In fact, I'm going to stop here and refer everyone back to Claire's review. Next I'm going to gather up a few of these requests and take a stab at some of those. If this means I have to read about the Irish...well, that's what I'll do. Cheers!


Heather said...

I think this was the book where I stopped caring about Melanie. She just lost everythink that made her so fun. And I remember thinking "How cute, Mel and Kevin are getting together" in this book, just to get a big red harring and a million books with f'ing Jazz. I still think grown up Mel + Kevin = adorable babies. You know, until Mel trips over a root or something and can't have anymore kids.

Molly said...

I can't even remember if I read this book; so many of them blend together.