Pine Hollow #1
by Bonnie Bryant
High school. Driver's licenses. Boyfriends. Jobs.
A lot of new things are happening, but one thing remains the same: Stevie Lake, Lisa Atwood, and Carole Hanson are best friends.
Still, even among best friends, some things do change. Stevie's love affair with her car is eating up the time she used to spend with her horse. Lisa's long-distance relationship might not last the summer. Carole's job has her so wrapped up in horses that she forgets about the people around her. Problems can strain any friendship, but these three can handle it.
Then an accident leaves a girl's life in the balance, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. Can even best friends survive this test?
Okay, this summary? Completely not what the book is about. At all. It's actually pretty impressive in that regard. It's more of a general series summary than anything else, because from this book I have a feeling Stevie might become more obsessed with her car than with horses, Carole might start straining her friendships because of her work, and Lisa might have to break up with her boyfriend, which would really be okay with me, because I think he's an asshole.
I was never much of a Saddle Club fan, to be blunt. I had the first four books in the main series. I might have read them. I have some vague memory of spoons and eggs, but that's pretty much it. So just to let you all know now, I'm walking into these books with almost no knowledge of Saddle Club history. I know the names of the girls, and that's all. I decided to start reading Pine Hollow, mainly because I wanted to see if they were really classically Young Adult. I love Young Adult books -- like, I cannot wait for Sarah Dessen's new book to come out. Summer will not get here fast enough. So it's my dream to find more good, knock you over with their awesomeness YA horse books. Books like The Perfect Distance. Of course, I am not expecting Pine Hollow to live up to that level of good. Not at all.
The Long Ride starts out with a prologue. Lisa is going to California, because I guess somewhere along the way her parents divorced and her dad started himself a new family while Lisa's mom drowns in her bitterness because her life was "trivial" and now that's become all too plain. Stevie and Carole are going to the airport to give Lisa her big send off, and they have this girl Callie with them, who is along for the ride because Stevie is going to a tack shop afterward. They never make it to the tack shop. Instead they run into a horse on their way back to Pine Hollow, and the car rolls off the road. End prologue.
So the actual story picks up a few days before this tragic car wreck. The series takes a breathtakingly long time explaining the differences between middle school Saddle Club and high school Saddle Club, because the girls have responsibilities now! And jobs! And cars! And boyfriends! All of those things that were on the back of the cover! Carole is the morning barn manager at Pine Hollow for the summer, Stevie has recently gotten her driver's license and is in search of job to pay the car insurance, and Lisa is, of course, off to California to apparently have sex with a movie star named Skye Ransom, or so her boyfriend, Stevie's twin brother, seems to think. We're all caught up, yes? Let's move on to the plot.
Callie has come to Pine Hollow with her high maintenance Arabian named Fez. Carole is instantly overwhelmed by Fez's refusal to get off the horse van, and by the time Callie gets there she's a complete disaster waiting to happen. Callie arrives at the stable rushed and pissed because her brother is acting like a jerk and giving her about five minutes to see her horse before he has to chauffeur her to the dentist. This attitude crumples Carole's self-esteem almost immediately. Because Carole doesn't seem to have the ability to converse normally, she completely trips over herself and winds up offering Callie all of these services that boarders don't typically get at Pine Hollow, ie she will exercise Fez for Callie. Callie takes her up on the offer. As you can imagine, first impressions were not good.
Meanwhile, Stevie gets her license and is thrilled to pieces about it. She also gets a job as a pizza delivery girl, which involves so many gimmicks that you just have to roll your eyes because if I ever encountered a pizza delivery person wearing a felt Robin Hood hat, I'd probably tip them way more than normal just to help fund their path to a less ridiculous job. Stevie drops Lisa off at her house, and because they're practically neighbors, Alex immediately launches out of his house and makes a bee line straight to Lisa's place. This disturbed me. What was he doing? Waiting by the window? He shows up, all eager to pick out Lisa's clothes for her trip to California, probably wanting to select the frumpiest things she owns in his pathetic attempt to keep her anchored to his side from a few thousand miles away. While they're going through her CD collection, Skye Ransom calls, the very boy Alex is so worried about, and Lisa is forced to answer Skye's happy-go-lucky questions with vague statements in order to convince Alex that he has nothing to worry about. Dude, Alex sucks. This whole relationship makes me uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, Stevie delivers a pizza to Callie's home and, because everyone at Willow Creek are so ridiculously chummy, they strike up a conversation and Stevie winds up inviting Callie on the trail ride the Saddle Club is taking before Lisa leaves. Carole is not happy about this development, because she so dislikes Callie and she's tried to ride Fez and she hates Fez because he won't pick up a trot. Maybe. So Carole backs out of the trail ride, leaving Lisa and Stevie to get to know Callie, which they do and all goes swimmingly. Carole doesn't understand. Callie is a bitch! Surely her friends should have noticed this! They eat ice cream.
So, somewhere along the way Callie accidentally insults a girl with cerebral palsy. Stevie agonizes over telling Callie about how she sort of scraped up her family's car by backing into it. Lisa gets a letter from Skye, because that's likely, indicating that there is an opportunity for her to work with the horses on the set of his new tv show. The only requirements are "knowing something about horses and being willing to look after them." Carole finally has a successful ride on Fez after Max tells her to stop letting the horse push her around, and she rewards the horse by turning him out. Four hours later, while returning home from the airport, Stevie runs over Fez.
Okay, so now we've finally gotten to the point in the summary where everyone feels guilty. Callie falls into a coma, while Stevie and Carole are relatively fine. Fez breaks a leg, but because Callie is a congressman's daughter, his life is miraculously saved. When Callie wakes up from her coma, she has a hilarious "I feel so refreshed! Get me a toothbrush!" moment, but she is partially paralyzed on her left side, so the cerebral palsy girl decides to help with her therapeutic riding. Carole starts over with Callie, and Stevie deals with being the driver in the accident.
And thus, Pine Hollow starts. It was a little long, winding, and relatively mundane.
- Apparently Stevie's method of merging across three lanes of airport traffic is to wave her hand out of her window, "confuse" the drivers, and then dart all the way across the road. In a car, mind you. She is a wreck waiting to happen.
- Alex had only his lawns to mow. Apparently Alex has no friends. He only has lawns and lawn care paraphernalia.
- Carole and Stevie say a tearful goodbye to Lisa at the airport, and then Carole literally says she's going to miss Lisa and tells Callie, "It must be hard for you to understand." Dude, what? Does Callie not understand the concept of interpersonal relationships? Is she a sociopath? It would seem Callie has no friends either. Callie and Alex should totally hook up.
- Their house still bore the scars of a few water balloons gone astray. Wow, that's serious. Apparently Stevie's family is too poor to replace shattered windows.
- "It's a television series. A contemporary series set on a horse ranch. He's been cast as the young romantic lead. All the girls who come to the ranch fall in love with him." This suspiciously sounds like The Bachelor.
- "He can't help being insecure, but, honestly, he has nothing to be insecure about." Lisa's boyfriend, Alex, has serious insecurity issues. Ew. Lisa, dump him now.
- You know, when your boyfriend wants to pick out your clothing for a trip he will not be attending with you this is what is known as the horrible red flashing neon sign that says: "Your boyfriend sucks and you need an upgrade."
- Whoever wrote this (Bonnie Bryant? Perhaps not?) is a horrible tipper.
- The Saddle Club has been eating ice cream at the same venue for ages. They have been served by the same waitress every single time. I would not be surprised if that waitress was the most depressed person on the face of the earth.
I wouldn't exactly call this young adult. It's more of a 9-12, middle grade market book trying desperately to appeal to an older audience and not quite getting there. It reads a little like the Thoroughbred series, actually. Despite that, it's still solid enough as the first in a spin-off series.