Aug 13, 2011
The A Circuit doesn't mean there is no drunken horse jumping. That's a class, right?
Georgina Bloomberg/Catherine Hapka
First things first concerning The A Circuit. I know it's trying hard to appeal to the general Gossip Girl set, but let me say now that if you don't know what Ariats are, you will be lost in this book. Just put the book down now, go find some other rich girl clique YA lit and move on with your life. This book assumes first and foremost that the horse obsessed -- hell, the experienced and knowledgeable horse obsessed -- teen girl is its audience. Expect no horsey explanations, because there are none. Therefore, I'm not going to even bother defining Ariats.
Second, this book undermines itself. But wait, let's back up and look at what we're dealing with. We've got three characters:
Tommi: She's a billionaire's daughter and spends most of her time trying to prove that she's a hard worker. She didn't just rise to the top of an insanely expensive sport because her daddy has money! She just wishes people would understand how hard she works because horses are her life and if they, you know, wind up not being her life she'll go to Georgetown or something.
Kate: She's the money poor, determined, worker bee, rise above all challenges character that is required in all horse literature. I actually liked her, even though she's sort of a doormat. Her issue is she doesn't think she's ever good enough, maybe she has OCD, and she's got a crush on the barn womanizer.
Zara: If the two previous characters are cliches, she is the cliche to end them all. The daughter of a rock star and an actress, we're supposed to pick up on her anger and loneliness that drives her complete and intolerable batshit crazy, but mainly I kept thinking batshit! Kill it with fire! Mainly, she makes an ass of herself repeatedly.
So, that's what we've got. There is little plot to speak of outside of Tommi and Kate acting sane and rational within expected horse book standards while Zara is given all the actions of the villain. Unfortunately we're forced to listen to her bitch and moan for at least a fourth of the book because someone decided she should be a main character. This is pretty gutsy, but the author(s) completely failed to realize that characters like Zara need to grow or have some redeeming quality we can latch on to so we don't completely hate them. And I hated Zara. Not because she a) cannot ride (because she can't...wow, she really can't), b) is a completely ridiculous brat prone to literal temper tantrums, and c) actually smokes in the barn. None of those things actually annoy me. What pisses me off is that there are no consequences for this character. None, even as the evidence of her raging stupidity is plain to see in broad daylight and other characters recognize and react negatively. Still, nothing. So when the other characters are whispering about how Zara's going to get kicked out and the trainer is serious and professional and won't take Zara's shit, I eventually react by thinking lies! This book is lying to me, and it's doing a poor job.
Also, the brouhaha leading up to the completely irrational non-ending of this book is ridiculous. For what reason would anyone cover for Zara after she flagrantly and drunkenly injured a virtual stranger's horse? Why are they all not kicking her out on her ass? Oh, because she's a main character. That's why.
I skimmed through Zara's sections to save myself the torture, but Tommi and Kate were passable. The book would have been hugely helped had someone actually knocked Zara around a little bit, because as it stands I felt only frustration and I'm pretty sure that was the driving motivation behind my reading it while scowling and then typing this review at 1am. I won't be reading the rest in this series, which is unfortunate because the author(s) are clearly horse knowledgeable and there is a remarkable and refreshing lack of sappy girl/wonder pony forever friendship love HOORAY BUTTERFLIES. I just don't think I can stand by while Zara inevitably lights the barn on fire and everyone notices but she still doesn't get arrested for arson.
So, yeah. Zara ruined it for me. Sorry, folks!
Also: brand name count! I tallied 22 brands, which is actually far less than I was expecting. The book expends most of them in the first couple of chapters, but someone in this writer duo (or should I just say Catherine Hapka? I mean, we're all thinking it, right?) brought it under control.
And that, you guys, is my first horse book in...yeah, I don't even know. I'll just say "a while" and leave it at that.