by Heather Henson
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Untamable. Damaged. Angry.
Once full of promise and life, now lost in the shadows of abuse. This is Dream of Night's story--and it is also Shiloh's. One is a Thoroughbred racehorse, the other a twelve-year-old foster child. By chance they both find themselves under the care of Jessalyn DiLima--a final stop for each before the state takes more drastic measures. If this doesn't work out, the girl will be sent to a "residential facility" and the horse to a vet...for euthanizing.
This is their last chance, so why are they both so resistant? And why can't they see that Jess's life is not as easy as it seems? She fosters animals and children like them for a reason--she's a little broken too. And, like Shiloh and Dream of Night, Jess knows what it means to have lost nearly everything you love.
So, I haven't read a horse book since May? Is that even possible? Apparently so. Also seemingly impossible, I have decided to delve back into my black hole of horse books by starting with the most abusetastic of the bunch.
Dream of Night is told from three perspectives. Shiloh, the girl who never came from the best background and wound up getting beaten repeatedly and burned by her mother's boyfriend; Dream of Night, who was a promising racehorse and/or a champion who was plagued with injury before falling off the face of the earth to end up in one of those wildly insane abusive situations; and Jess, who takes them both in and attempts to rehabilitate them.
For most of the book, both Shiloh and Dream of Night make some truly impressive attempts to not be helped. Shiloh's over there writing every curse word she knows on the walls of her closet and ripping Misty of Chincoteague to shreds because it's Jess's favorite book. Night spends all of his time screaming and ripping the blankets Jess has the audacity to put on his hairless body. It's...kind of annoying. I can't decide if this is my experience with horse abuse plots, or because I am the impatient sort. Night didn't bother me as much as Shiloh, as her path toward great enlightenment takes longer while she's being destructive and blindly, belligerently ignorant (which is totally her prerogative, being twelve and all). Jess does come off as even more saintlike for weathering Shiloh's nonstop storm, which is mostly extremely intense even while Shiloh makes some tiny strides toward caring about anything (i.e. Night) outside of how screwed up her immensely screwed up childhood obviously is. Night, predictably, only starts to take some strides toward not being angry at the world when equally angry and messed up Shiloh approaches him out of...I will assume this is a kindred spirits sort of thing?
The book is framed by phone calls. Shiloh's mom doesn't help matters when she keeps finding the phone number for whatever foster family has taken her in, so she can totally confuse Shiloh on the fact that she's not ever going to be a capable mother. And Night's previous owner keeps calling randomly and hanging up, presumably waiting for someone to get on the line and tell him the address of the number he keeps calling. How he got the number and not the address is anyone's guess, but essentially he wants Night back...so he can randomly attack him with chains some more. Great way to convince the courts that you're a responsible horse owner! Sure, it makes no sense, but then no one ever said that abusive situations are ever logical.
The book cheats a little bit and skips forward a year, giving us moderately stable Shiloh and moderately healed Night, because to not see them a little bit progressed past the state in which they spent the vast majority of the book would be too much for pretty much anyone to handle.
- The book is mostly made up of fragments and italics. Horses whinny like this: Rrrhhhraaaa! Which I found kind of hilarious, especially when Night and his former owner have an altercation that was written as Rrrhhraaaa! "Aaaaaaaahhh!" Rrrhhhraaaaa! "Aaaaaaaahhh!" Rrhhhraaaaa!
- Yes, I'm easily amused.