by Alice Leonhardt
I am pretty positive that the plot for this book is only possible because Fredericka Graber is completely incapable of making good decisions, and our beloved main character is putting on a front of helping her when in fact she is profiting off of her horrible mistakes. Yes, I'm talking about you, Melanie.
Will Image ever behave herself on the track?
Melanie Graham's dream has come true - a chance to ride Perfect Image in her first race. Image has been running great, and it looks like they may even have a shot at winning some big-time races.
But Melanie and the black filly's trainers have forgotten how unpredictable Image can be. When she's disqualified from her first race, they wonder if she has the temperament to race at all. How will Melanie prove that with a little special treatment this very special filly can make it all the way to the Triple Crown?
Anyway, Claire already wrote up a beautiful summary of this book, which means I get to be a little lazy in reporting my own findings, which I will present to you now in the form of a list. Fantastic? I think so.
Finding #1: Melanie makes selfishness look like pure philanthropy. Way to love your fellow person, Melanie! The problem Melanie is facing is great indeed: she is in love with a horse that is owned by a person who cannot figure out her own finances. For Fredericka, this means bankruptcy and the inevitable fate of living out her life in a retirement villa while our Thoroughbred Series characters remember her fondly, but routinely fail to visit. For Melanie, this means that she may lose the horse she loves to the evil clutches of Brad Townsend, who still wants to retire and breed Image, and we all know this is the absolute worst thing that can ever happen to a horse. Especially Image, who just wants to roam around in a field all day, can't stand the track, and can't tolerate being left in a stall for more than two minutes straight. I mean, obviously a racing career is perfect for her. Retirement as an unshod broodmare would be too low a path to even consider!
As Freddy bemoans her stupidity, hinting at Brad's ruse of sincerity by wanting to buy up her stock, Melanie puts her foot down. Like hell she'll let Brad buy all of Freddy's stock and thereby help her save her farm! That means Image will be swaybacked and pregnant by the time she's three instead of four! She will train Image herself to race at the end of the month, and surely the tiny purse of a maiden race will convince the bank that Freddy is good for the rest over the course of two or three years in which Image might win the amount Brad is willing to pay now--probably in cash, because that's how he is--excluding the cost of feed and board and fees and things of that nature. This plan totally makes sense! And Freddy buys it all, allowing Melanie to puff up her head with silliness about talking to the bank and telling them how important she is despite having no money. Therefore, Melanie's brand of helping a person out is to protect her own interests and make it look like she's really in it to help Fredericka. Which is brilliant, but probably not what the series is going for in terms of teaching morals to preteens.
Finding #2: Image hates racing. Seriously, that's not even me reading between the lines. It's pretty obvious. Having never read the books that lead up to Image's run at the Kentucky Derby, I never really got why she was such an extreme dark horse. She is the definition of a dark horse, and now I get why everyone (everyone who recognized the insanity of the plot, anyway, and didn't just support it because at least it wasn't Star and Chris) was more or less disgusted that she actually won the race. So I am more in awe of the way Melanie and her band of merry followers can dismiss this plain fact, as if babying her will make Image a sane, even enthusiastic racehorse. Because sure, she has talent, but she hates it. Even Melanie seems to recognize this on more than one occasion, but she keeps pushing it as Image's "career." And I keep wondering what is wrong with this girl and why she has to push the whole feminist movement onto a two-year-old filly that hates what she's doing and/or is terrified about 75% of the time and homicidal the other 25%.
Finding #3: (This is sort of a general series observation.) Why are these people even invested in horse racing? I am always amazed by the hypocritical statements they always make about racing and retiring. You can't race a horse because it's possible abuse, but you can't retire a horse because you can't for varying reasons, one of them being (as it is here) that breeding is vaguely awful for no reason I can quite figure out other than it makes mares swaybacked and fat. Thoroughbred, your weird issues are hurting my brain.
Finding #4: I would like to see a horse sudden stop dead at the quarter mile pole, spin around, run the opposite direction into oncoming traffic, spin back around after having dodged a couple of horses by the narrowest of margins, and still win the race. I mean, people got upset when Glory won the Breeders' Cup Classic by 31 lengths, but I'm thinking this is the more impossible scenario of the two.
Finding #5: Melanie finds herself irrationally upset when she finds out that her father doesn't have $500,000 of capital sitting around to invest in a racehorse for his little girl, ultimately going to Jazz to be co-crazy racehorse owners. This results in a talk with Ashleigh and Christina concerning how she just can't expect horse racing to be like 4-H. Come on, Melanie. You don't just give away racehorses! Sure, Ashleigh may have been handed half interest in Wonder out of the goodness of Clay Townsend's heart. Samantha may have been given Shining because Ashleigh and Mike are nice like that. Christina may have been given the opportunity to buy up the Townsend share in Star because Brad was feeling sort of charitable that day. Allie may have been given a stallion for no reason at all that anyone can figure out ever. But you? You don't get handed a racehorse because that would be silly! This is a business, Melanie. Look at Cindy. Did she get her own horse? No. And why? Because no one liked her. Take from that what you will.
Finding #6: Funny quotes. Example: "Well, Vince is Image's trainer so I guess he has to be involved." Yes, Melanie. I guess he does, like, have to do his job.
Finding #7: Fashion. Thoroughbred, you fail at it. Example: Jazz's all black ensemble. Freddy's all blue pants suit, complete with blue pumps, handbag and gloves. Everyone's love of variations on brown and khaki, especially when wearing tweed.
Finding #8: I liked the book. The ending was predictable, but well done. Sure, Melanie may be forcing a career on a horse that wants no part of it, but she's realizing her dream. Which is to force things on others and bankrupt good friends along the way. Way to go, Mel!