May 3, 2009

Close Call: The book that made me love Parker.

Close Call
by Karle Dickerson
Thoroughbred #41
Published: 2000

It's probably impossible to review/recap this book after Claire's awesome entry on it last June, but here I am anyway.

I give this cover my stamp of approval, mainly because it reminds me a little of the older covers. You know, the covers that bothered to put effort into depicting tack even somewhat correctly.

Parker's Olympic dream is at risk...
Parker Townsend and Christina Reese haven't seen much of each other lately. Parker is competing in the Olympic trials in combined training and Christina is racing Thoroughbreds. When Parker meets Lyssa Hynde, things only get worse.

Lyssa, the daughter of a Montana rancher who rides her horse without a bit, has been winning everything and is fast becoming a celebrity. Christina instantly befriends Lyssa, eager to learn all her tricks. Parker's jealous of Lyssa, and it's affecting his riding. Will Parker let Lyssa ruin his shot at the Olympics?

I'm going to run through this fairly quickly, because I can't say much more than Claire already has. So if you want the full review, check out hers.

That said, here's my opinion on this book: WHAT. I think that sums it up. I have never loved Parker more, but that's mainly because he is the ONLY voice of reason in this book. Everyone else is too busy instantly accepting Lyssa, and then fawning all over her to a point of borderline worship. It's no wonder Parker begins to come a little loose at the seams. If I was shoved into this situation, I'm pretty sure I'd snap. I give Parker so many points for having to go through these ridiculous scenarios that he almost instantly became the most awesome character in this series. In fact, I'll just say it now: Parker is the most awesome character in this series after Brad.

So, now let's focus on Lyssa's awfulness. Not only do I smell mary sue, I am going to scream it from the hills. Mary sue! Kill it! Look, it's not that she just randomly walks up with her horse and is annoying. It's that the first thing she does is criticize Parker's dressage test, and she's right. First, you think bitch. Just who is she? Then she shows up to warm up her horse using only a wire slung around its neck, and you think grandstanding bitch! And it gets worse from there. Lyssa wins the first event, throwing Parker into turmoil. Her horse follows her around like a lovesick puppy, and then all human characters follow suit. Samantha suddenly starts to use Lyssa's training techniques, for Christ's sake. It just does not stop, and it gets increasingly strange, and every single time someone mentions how fantastic/inriguing Lyssa is you want to run over and give Parker a hug and/or smack Lyssa just for being there.

Of course, who steps in to force things back into normalcy? Brad. Thank you, Brad. All it takes is Brad's appearance at Whisperwood to tell his son that eventing is just randomly hauling about over logs (because Brad Townsend will go so out of his way to drive home his disappointment in someone that he will resort to taking a road trip to Whisperwood), and Lyssa's annoying mary sue inclination of being the only one who will stand up to him (thus giving Parker back his confidence, which she was doing such a fantastic job of draining away in the first place), to set things right.

So, mutual dislike for Brad and Lavinia put Parker and Lyssa on somewhat okay terms. Big event comes along, and to my eternal aggravation, Lyssa beats Parker again. But because Parker has learned something about teamwork or whatever this is totally okay! Today is the best day of his life, and he learned stuff from Lyssa that...sort of got him somewhere that remarkably resembles exactly where he was in the beginning of the story? And his parents are totally okay with this result! And they're totally okay with telling everyone he's going to the Olympics! A totally okay ending!

Can I just interject here and say that it is totally not okay! After all of this, to have Lyssa win again just annoys me. It doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy that Parker has grown and accepted whatever lesson he was forced to learn in this book. It just makes me want Lyssa to fall off her horse and get dragged into a pool of water just deep enough to drown her.

Also, this final exchange further makes me want Lyssa to meet an awful end:

Parker: I've learned so much from you.
Lyssa: Ah. So you finally admit it?
Parker: So what?
Lyssa: Well, if it's any consolation, I managed to learn something from you, too.


And those are my thoughts.

Other random points!
  • In autumn, you cannot enter a horse in the Blue Grass Stakes. What's more, you can't even agonize about the Blue Grass Stakes because it's KIND OF IN APRIL, KARLE.
  • Brad enjoys eating French toast and/or Eggs Benedict in the morning, and because Parker turns his nose up at this we instantly know that eating large portions of rich food is clearly evil. This begs the question of what is an acceptable breakfast food to our beloved main characters, and the answer is doughnuts.
  • Parker attempts to go to school in jeans and sneakers (I suppose he forgot his shirt?) and Brad gives him a look, as well he should because Parker is obviously forgetting something. Brad is all, "My professors would never allow this!" Surely! And, on the off chance I'm supposed to just assume Parker put on a shirt, in what era did Brad go to college? This must be some crazy continuity issue, because I will forever believe Brad went to college in the 90s.
  • Karle, thank you for confirming my suspicion that Brad went to an Ivy League school.
  • You know, I know I'm supposed to laugh at Lyssa's story that someone might dare to show up for riding wearing "stockings and high heel sandals" but mainly I can't help thinking that this is a faux pas for all sorts of other reasons.
  • It occurs to me that if these people think flatwork is boring, and whine about it constantly, perhaps they're in the wrong profession.
  • I'm pretty sure that somewhere in here Samantha tells Parker to relax, by which she means "go make out or have sex with your girlfriend if that is where you are in your relationship." Christina is so not at that stage in their relationship, much to Parker's distress.
  • Intriguingly, Dylan shows up in this book, if only briefly and always off screen.

So. That was a Thoroughbred book!


Nienna said...

I always thought Foxy looked gorgeous on this cover, and even at the age of 12 when I originally read this, I thought that a lot of Lyssa's training methods seemed incredibly weird and unrealistic.

Molly said...

God I fucking hated Lyssa. Mostly because I've met too many people who would also think she was the GREATEST THING EVER OMG. When really, she was just a smug bitch.