Everything changes or nothing changes....
Will Lisa leave Virginia for sunny California? She's been there for most of the summer and she likes it. There's a lot less pressure on her, and she's working on a TV show loaded with good-looking guys, romance, and horses. What more could she want? Maybe she should stay....
Her boyfriend, Alex, worries that Lisa is spending too much time with a handsome movie star. Some girls might fall in love with someone like that, but Lisa wouldn't. Or would she? If only Alex could be sure. Carole and Stevie are Lisa's best friends and they want the best for her, but they don't want her to move away either. Is there anything they can do to persuade her to come home?Three people's happiness is riding on one decision...will Lisa make the right one?
Allow me to repost a ten-year-old review on this book from Amazon:
TOO MUCH BOYS! TOO MUCH LOVEDOVEY JUNK! WHAT THE HECK WENT WRONG! I CAN'T BELIEVE THESE GIRLS! ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS BOYS, BOYS, BOYS! TOO MUCH OF IT! LESS OF HORSES, HORSES, HORSES!
Well, I guess someone was upset. Ignoring the hysteria here, this review does bring up a good point about Pine Hollow: the girls have grown up. They've moved past horse crazy stage, and are battling their raging hormones that have been begging to stampede around unchecked by things like morals or sense. I don't mind this at all, actually. In fact, I find it a little refreshing. However, because these stories straddle the line between YA and middle grade, and have the misfortune of using Saddle Club characters that younger kids and the more immature set of teens are attracted to...we get a lot of weird responses to the attempt to mix boys with the horse craziness. Hence...hysteria!
My opinion: grow up. You know how thrilled I would have been if the Thoroughbred series had embraced its teenage hormones like this? I would be giggling myself sick with joy! (Or maybe not, but that's hypothetical situations for you.) Anyway, moving on.
Reining In deals with a few issues, namely: Stevie's inability to live in the present (car wreck trauma, etc), Carole's complete inexperience (and frustration) with the opposite sex, and Lisa's upcoming decision about whether or not she's staying in California. Stevie is holding on by a thread, which is savagely snapped by the appearance of Veronica and her boy toy, Trent, who is basically a zombie without that nasty blood lust.
As it is with all middle grade books (I mean, stupidly immature YA books...um...damn you, Pine Hollow!), Veronica brings out the worst in our dashing and wonderful main characters, a la Brad Townsend as he stands nearby Ashleigh & Co., looking bored as they have a collective conniption fit over his presence. (Yes, I find the protagonist reaction to some antagonists ridiculously hilarious now. Thank you, Thoroughbred!) Veronica wants to ride with her boy toy, and Ben casually agrees to be her stable boy, tacking up the horses as Carole and Stevie are too busy reacting to her snobbery by acting as catty or insane as possible.
Seriously, horse story protagonists, your pure and supposedly justified reaction to your antagonists makes you look bad. Please read every middle grade horse book ever for further examples on this topic.
Anyway, Stevie has a mental break and runs off to relive her wreck...or something. This means that Stevie's parents are going to step in and send her and Carole to California for two weeks! (Alex immediately interjects that he misses Lisa too, and he wants to go too, and everyone laughs at him and he is so going to be a domestic abuser when he grows up.) So most of this book takes place in California, where Stevie irritatingly enough "looks after her brother's interests" and Carole succumbs to her hormones.
Lisa, irritated that they are both pressing her about coming home to Willow Creek, takes them and their shitty attitudes to the tv set where she works. There they are immediately pacified by horses and the beautiful boys that populate this show. There is completely idiotic talk about how the obviously nice boy, Matthew, must not be that nice because he plays the bad guy, which leaves Carole open to fall in love with the obviously bad guy, Jeremiah, who plays Skye Ransom's charismatic best friend. Seriously, you guys, who honestly believes that people who play villains must be inherently predisposed to be bad in real life? This makes no sense, Pine Hollow.
Carole is also scared to death of dying in an earthquake, so during a tremor she freaks and is saved by Jeremiah, who takes his chance to engage in inappropriate behavior. Skye breaks it up, like a sensible person. And Carole acts her age by wanting to tell everyone about it. But during a sightseeing session with Jeremiah, Stevie breaks up his attempt to devour Carole with his mouth, and he breaks things off with Carole because...friends who tag along are so irritating? Maybe?
Well, whatever. During this, Skye eventually admits to Lisa that he wants her to stay and is attracted to her now that she is seventeen. This is where I admit to becoming a little bit of a Skye/Lisa shipper, mainly because why not?
Anyway. Jeremiah insults Carole, probably delivers years and years of scarring in one sentence that is fairly impressive in an immature way, and Stevie grows bitter over her California experience. They are all phonies! And fakes! And everyone is stupid, with the stupid perfect weather and the stupid perfect greenery and such! But this is before Lisa decides to drag them all to a club, because I guess that's normal? Matthew, awesome guy from before, listens to Stevie's tirade against the state of California with as much grace as an awesome person can, and decides to take her to see the most awesome part of California that only awesome people know about. I don't know exactly where this is, but it involves the beach, a shirtless him, and surf boarding. Stevie is perplexed, as was I, but she gets over it, grabs a surf board, and decides to have fun.
Ultimately, Lisa decides to go back to Virginia -- back to her shallow, emotionally unresponsive mother, her controlling and emotionally needy boyfriend, and her irritating and judgmental friends. For the sake of the drama, I guess this is a good thing. For the sake of Lisa's sanity and my sudden and unrelenting Skye/Lisa obsession, obviously she ticked the "nothing changes" box and chose wrong.