by Alice Leonhardt
This book is hilarious! Let's take a look, shall we?
I never really liked this cover, mainly because the composition doesn't even try for pleasing. It also occurred to me recently that Melanie has selected a coat that Dracula would love. This isn't really surprising to me, come to think of it, because Melanie is the girl who wears purple fringed suede of her own free will. Despite that, I do like the background of this cover. I even like the attempt at shadows, and the vague suggestion that someone is leading that bay horse...totally ignoring that Melanie just got her ass handed to her and Image is about ready to tear out of her paddock.
Melanie has her hands full....
Melanie Graham can't help herself--she's fallen in love with the high-spirited black filly, Perfect Image. More than anything, Melanie wants to help train the filly and be the first one to race her.
Despite her name, Image is anything but perfect. The filly has been spoiled by her doting owner since birth, and is impossible to handle. In fact, her trainer wants to give up and turn Image into a broodmare, hoping her foals will have better sense than she does. But Melanie is sure that Image was born to win. Will Melanie fight for the horse she loves?
The Bad Luck Filly is initially amusing because it's about an old lady spoiling a filly rotten, thereby creating an animal that is impossible to handle, and it takes one of our beloved main characters, who are just as guilty of this behavior pretty much always, to correct it. It's actually mind boggling if you sit and ponder this plot for any stretch of time.
Because we haven't actually heard from Melanie's perspective in a while--all the way back to Dead Heat, under far different circumstances--this book takes a bit of adjustment. You don't really know where Melanie's mindset is, much less know anything about her relationship with Kevin. This convinces me that Melanie should have been thrown out as a main character when the Wonder's Legacy Trilogy occurred, because after five Christina books encompassing about three years, we don't know much at all about Melanie other than the following: she got her apprentice license, was pretty good up until she fell off Fast Gun, is now suffering through what can only be called self-esteem issues, and Kevin broke up with her because she's boring. That's all that can be said for her over three years, guys. What story can we dream up that makes her at all interesting?
Don't count Alice Leonhardt out! Oh, Alice will spin you a story. A rather obvious, predictable story that takes the Do It Yourself concept to a whole other level. We start out with Melanie and Christina exercising horses for Vince Jones. Christina is doing super fantastic lately, and Melanie is trying not to be jealous, but sort of failing. She is upset with herself that she's not as good as she wants to be, upset that Christina gets more attention, and upset that she doesn't have a super fantastic awesome wonder pony upon which she can slather attention. What is a sixteen-year-old senior in high school (is this possible without skipping a grade?) to do? Why, she has to find a super special horse totally out of the blue the moment she's feeling at her lowest about her failures at being awesome.
The horse is Image. What's weird about this is she's met Image before, but I guess the light bulb didn't click on until now. That's highly suspicious, Melanie. I doubt your commitment to the wonder pony! I'm not all that sure what attracts Melanie to Image, other than her shiny black wonder pony coat, but then she's seen that before, so I don't get it. She just springs at the filly like a twelve-year-old girl does to a chestnut horse, and that's that. Wonder pony/special main character bond of love and trust and awesomeness commences!
Or maybe not? Because then Image gets loose and nearly runs over Melanie, who has this idea that if she stands right in front of a charging horse she will: A) stop that horse in its tracks and B) make that horse fall in love with her and not C) accidentally be trampled. As it happens, Image just avoids her, ignores her totally, and Melanie falls in love. This is not what anyone intended, but I guess Melanie will just have to work with what she's given.
So, Image runs onto the track, causes an accident with Christina and Gratis, and everyone yells that Image is an idiot filly with a teeny tiny idiot brain. Melanie tries to say that she is really the smartest filly there ever was, only no one cares and shuts her up halfway through her spiel about Image's big, idiot brain. Vince decides to ship Image back to Tall Oaks, and Melanie manages to wiggle her way into helping train the filly in her spare time, because otherwise Image will be prepared for the ultimate doom...breeding. Yes, yes, are we all properly horrified? I thought you might be!
But first, Melanie has to go to a concert with Parker, Christina, and this guy named Fred. Because the concert is hot and makes the kids appropriately sweaty (in a G-Rated sort of way), Parker suggests that they go swimming. Christina is all for this, but wants to stop at home to get her swimsuit only to be laughed at, making her all flustered because just what is Parker implying? Surely it's not...of course he wouldn't...like, no way! Yes, no way. Parker is implying that they swim in the clothes they've got on, Chris. You and your dirty mind! So they go to this house, where there is a lifestyles of the rich and famous party going on. Brad is there, drinking cocktails, probably drunk, regaling anyone who will listen about his awesomeness. And Ashleigh and Mike are there, for some reason, dancing all over the place in bare feet. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I have a feeling Brad's awesomeness has gotten to them. They have traded their jeans for silk shift dresses, so you know now that Brad has won the war.
Anyway, during the party Brad makes fun of Melanie's interest in Image, which comes totally out of nowhere. Kevin, however, knows why Brad doesn't want Melanie to care about Image! Kevin, please explain this to me, because I'm pretty sure this is baseless stupidity on Alice's part! Kevin: Brad is angry that he sold Image's dam to Freddy, blah blah blah, wants her back, blah. This is ridiculous, Kevin. I find this explanation lacking. Maybe he's just, I don't know, telling Melanie the truth. God forbid! Okay, maybe he's just toying with her for the fun of it. And then the kids jump in the pool.
So, as it happens, Image is quite insane. And quite annoying. And very out of control. And Melanie is completely out of her depth with her attempts at training her, which does not come as a surprise at all because she's never actually tried to train a horse before. So after a week goes by, and Melanie tries to saddle the filly, and the filly goes bonkers, who is surprised? No one? Naturally. Melanie gets Kevin to help her with Image. Things go splendidly, until Alexis (or the evil farm manager who only Melanie only senses is evil, of course) drives a van by the farm and spooks the filly. Kevin smacks his knee, and bruises himself badly enough to miss most of his soccer season, potentially throwing his soccer scholarship in doubt. To which I have to say that Ian probably has enough money to pay for Kevin's college in one fell swoop, so don't give me this bullshit about scholarships, Thoroughbred. The Wind Chaser storyline be damned!
Melanie goes through all the levels of self-doubt through this book, comes to the conclusion that she really doesn't know what she's doing, that she was stupid to believe she could just magic a connection between herself and Image, and then goes to the trusted, most valued source for advice. The great Ashleigh Griffen. So we get another rousing story of Ashleigh's Wonder and the meaning of hard work, and how you have to believe in your goal, because if you just want to train a horse to prove your doubters wrong you are totally not going anywhere! Although, Ashleigh, sweetie, are you forgetting that whole PROVING BRAD WRONG motivation that you KIND OF HAD all through, OH, FOUR BOOKS?
Sigh. SIGH. At this point, Melanie decides that Pirate is going to help Image get over her bitchiness. Pirate smacks Image around a little, teaches her the meaning of respect, and just like that Image calms down enough to be trained enough to pony well next to Pirate. Vince comes along, proclaims her racehorse material because she can pony without killing something, and decides to take her back to the track with him...where Melanie will never see her again! Melanie feels the unfairness of life. Poor her.
Because Brad has advised Ashleigh that she needs to take Star to Belmont (because Brad knows how to train racehorses better than she does...which is wildly apparent in some books, and this is one of them), Christina, Mike and Ashleigh go to Belmont and leave Melanie to her own devices. Melanie goes to Tall Oaks to see Image one last time, only to see her carted off to Turfway. Melanie suffers yet another mental break, pitches a fit, but Image is still carted off to Turfway. Then Kevin gives her a motivational, albeit brief, speech about...something. Then they follow the filly to Turfway.
- She was awesome. Awesome!
- I can't decide if U Got It is a really horrible attempt at fictionalizing U2, or if it's just the most pathetic attempt at band naming ever to exist in the history of Thoroughbred.
- Strumming his guitar, Mikey Krash, the lead singer for U Got It, belted out the last line. The drummer beat his drums and cymbals in a frenzy, and the backup singers gyrated and wailed. That's it. Alice, I'm putting you on my list of authors never to take seriously ever again.
- Who ever thought a song called "Jam With Me" might include lyrics "You gotta jam with me!" Alice, you are cementing my decision!
- Who widens their eyes at Porsches, Jaguars and BMWs? Those are the cars of the sort of rich, but not flagrantly, stupidly rich. Get a grip, Mel.
- Brad drives a blue sedan? I disapprove! Or maybe that's just the car he drives when he's trying to be inconspicuous?
- Okay, it's time for another one of Brad's amazing fashion moments. Observe: Dressed in white pants with a perfect crease, his signature navy blue blazer with gold buttons, a crisp white shirt, and a blue cravat, Brad looked as though he were about to sail off on a yacht. ALICE. WHY. Also, this just lends more proof to my theory that the New Generation authors think Brad was born in the 1800's.
- And why are Ashleigh and Mike at this party? Why are they wearing fancy clothes? What is going on here? I...just don't comprehend.
- Why in the hell is Star running in 1 1/2 mile races at two?
- "Belmont's got a mile-and-a-half Grade I race for two- and three-year-old colts." No it doesn't. Just...no. It really doesn't.
- Whitebrook hadn't had a horse like Star since Wonder's Pride had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Damn. There are so many things wrong with this statement, I don't even know where to start.
- [Mike] was clutching the dashboard, his knuckles white. You know, this seems like a hard thing to do. Also, stop being a drama queen, Mike!
- For the last time, Alice, there is no starting gun.
- The Whitebrook crew is so American. Hot dogs, hamburgers, or fried chicken. Every night!
- "I assume Image is a horse and not the name of your new boyfriend." Funny how you should say that, Will.
- Alexis tells Melanie: "Welcome to the real world." Real world? What is this real world of which you speak? Thoroughbred doesn't attempt real, okay? It specializes in the literary equivalent of hugs and kisses.
- "That's the girl I know and love!" Well, that was awkward. Nicely done, Kevin!
So, I did enjoy this book for the hilarity. I also enjoyed it for the fact that things don't end in hugs and happy whinnies. I also find it interesting that suddenly Whitebrook hasn't had a racehorse on par with Star since Wonder's Pride, which must have something to do with the editor's orders that nothing from the Cindy era ever be mentioned in the New Generation. At this point, Mary Anderson hadn't torn through that wall, so Wonder's Champion and March to Glory aren't just ignored, they don't exist. Frankly, I kind of like this version of Thoroughbred.