- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Soho Teen (Sept. 13 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781616955175
- ISBN-13: 978-1616955175
- ASIN: 1616955171
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.5 x 21.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 322 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #181,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Dark Horses Hardcover – Sep 13 2016
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Praise for Dark Horses
"A compelling story of love and fixation . . . The twisted tale of Merritt and Red has the power and mystery of myth."
—Eliot Schrefer, New York Times bestselling author and two-time National Book Award finalist
“Move over, Black Beauty. Cecily von Ziegesar has brought the classic horse novel into the twenty-first century with an alluring, heart-wrenching, and nail-biting look at an elite and tumultuous world. The relationship between Merritt and Red is haunting and powerful. I devoured this book to its very end.”
—Sara Shepard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
“Told in dual perspectives of a troubled teen and the difficult horse she’s paired with, Dark Horses is an exciting new addition to YA you will not want to miss! Von Ziegesar has created a world so utterly unique, compelling, and at times heartwrenching, it stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”
—Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Immortals series and Unrivaled
"Dark Horses is a slightly bizarre spin on Black Beauty, about characters who go to desperate lengths to find control, purpose and love in their lives. In an unusual viewpoint, Red shines as a tragic victim of human whim."
"This page-turner will draw in a whole new audience with just the right blend of glamor, scandal, and horses."
—School Library Journal
"The competitive riding world is always a draw, and this is an intriguing look into its dark side. If that weren't enough, von Ziegesar's (the Gossip Girl series) name alone will spur readers."
"Von Ziegesar, known for her Gossip Girl series, nails teen dialogue and horse-show society."
Praise for Cecily von Ziegesar
“The heartlessness of youth is von Ziegesar’s double-edged theme . . . Her designated reader is an adolescent girl, but the reader she seems to have firmly in mind as she writes is a literate, even literary, adult.”
—The New Yorker
“Sophisticated. Von Ziegesar takes seriously the inner lives of characters who in any other teen narrative would be stock villains.”
—New York Magazine
About the Author
Cecily von Ziegesar is the author of the worldwide bestselling Gossip Girl book series. Her notorious satires of life on the Upper East Side were adapted for TV and aired for six seasons. Cecily grew up in Manhattan, kept horses in Connecticut, and has lived in Italy, Maine, Arizona, Budapest, and London. In each of those places, she found a horse to ride. She now lives in Brooklyn with her family and other animals.See all Product description
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VIDEO REVIEW TO COME SEPT 30th:
Dark Horses is told from two perspectives, Merritt a self destructive teenaged girl and an ex race horse named Red. After the death of her grandmother and horse, Merritt walks out in the middle of her SAT test after a night of drinking. Her parents opt to send her to Good Fences, an equestrian based rehab facility, where she meets Red. Red belongs to the owner's daughter Beatrice who also attends Good Fences. Red has been unable to bond with anyone and hasn't allowed anyone to ride him for years, until he meets Merritt. Their bond quickly catches the attention of Beatrice's owner, a very wealthy business man who decides to fund Merritt and Red to compete in horse races around the United States. Merritt develops a friendship with Beatrice and also a possible love interest in her competition, a rider named Carvin. Red does not take lightly to Merritt's new found friendships, anyone who comes between himself and Merritt poses a threat and he will stop at nothing to keep the two of them together forever.
The book was extremely easy to read, fast paced and fun to read. I really enjoyed the changing POV between Merritt and Red. I loved Red's point of view, he was such a jerk and I was laughing at most of the things he thought about. I still don't know how I feel about Merritt... at times I found her very bland and boring but other times I really liked her as a character. The insta-love between Carvin and Merritt was a bit of a bummer to me, although it took awhile for their relationship to actually develop, the initial onset came way to quickly in my opinion. You could really tell that the author has an extensive knowledge about horses and equestrian lifestyle based off of the vocabulary she uses and her writing in general on the topic. The writing did occasionally go off on tangents that I didn't find relevant to the plot development, it was still an enjoyable read! I did feel like the plot was a bit too far-fetched and convenient at times though. I also found the ending to be unresolved, I really want to know what happens next with Merritt and Carvin! Overall, I enjoyed the story!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The horse in this story is Red. He's headstrong, VERY opinionated, and talks like a 14 year old kid. If he were human, Red would be the mouthy football player that picks on other kids because he's bigger and it gets a laugh from his friends and he likes the feeling of power as deep down he's insecure and obsessive about his relationships with other people. In Dark Horses, Red does indeed pick on other horses, contemplates sabotaging them just for the fun of it, and behaving in such a way that riders and other horses get hurt when he doesn't get his way. I know that this is just a story, but the character of Red was incredibly off-putting from the start.
Red soon finds himself paired with Merritt, a girl with a boatload of problems of her own. She feels like everyone around her dies because of her, and is down a very deep hole of depression and self-loathing. She is partnered with Red at Good Fences, a sort of rehabilitation facility, and Red soon becomes enamored with Merritt. He becomes so enamored with her in fact that he becomes jealous of her human relationships, first with Beatrice, then with Carvin. It's Red's jealousy and possessive nature that cause things to begin to unwind. When coupled with Merritt's own personal unresolved traumas, things really hit the proverbial fan.
While I didn't enjoy Red or his stalker/abusive personality, Merritt was a likeable character. The struggles in her life that she was going through were realistic and relatable. The author was very spot when writing Merritt's chapters. The depth of the guilt she felt for the deaths of the people in her life that she lost was crushing, but Merritt was one of those people that holds it all inside in order to prevent others from seeing them as weak or in any way not in full control. Her moments of growth came when she confronted everything she'd been burying for so long. Merritt didn't have a stereotypical 180 degree total life change. Her changes were tiny, minor, incremental - in other words, realistic. If there had been more Merritt in this book and less Red, it would have been a much more enjoyable novel for me.
Regardless if Red is a horse or a human, I could not bring myself to form a bond with his character. If he had been a human, Merritt would have taken out a restraining order against him. His actions and reactions were those of an abusive sociopathic boyfriend. His actions and thought process at the end of the book only reinforced my dislike of his character. I'm not sure why this book was compared to or called an update to Black Beauty, but other than having part of the story the horse's perspective, I really don't believe this is the right comparison. It is dark, it is psychologically twisted, there is romance, but I think that by comparing this to Black Beauty it sets up an unfair level of expectations for some readers (like me). The description for this book would be better if that little blurb "update of Black Beauty" were left out. There are enough twists and turns and drama in this book for it to stand on its own two (or four) legs without giving readers per-conceived notions of how the story should go.
a) The horse is seriously injured in an accident, necessitating a change in its career.
b) The horse starts out being ridden by a spoiled rich brat but then gets a better rider who is poorer (comparatively) but far more virtuous- and starts winning.
c) The horse can only be ridden by one special person (the poor, virtuous girl). Even experienced riders get tossed right off this horse, but not her.
d) The main equestrian in the book has limited experience, but unbounded talent, meaning that she is chosen over more experienced riders to train the horse.
e) All of the above.
Answer: e), but bear with me, I did enjoy reading this book and would recommend it (hence the four stars).
Plot: Ever since her equestrian grandmother died, Merritt Wenner has felt adrift. After walking out of her SATs prematurely, self-medicating with pills and alcohol, and disappearing without permission, her parents decide the best next step is to send her to Good Fences, a recently opened rehab center for girls. Here she meets her roommate, Beatrice's, horse, Big Red (a former racehorse with jumping potential) and after Beatrice takes off, is assigned to care for him. When they bond, Red's rich owner chooses Merritt to show the horse on the "A" circuit, and she winds up bonding with Beatrice, who accompanies them to shows as a groom. Though Merritt feels a connection with the sparky Beatrice, her horse Red seems to be jealous, and as we get Red's perspective in alternating chapters, the reader finds that this is indeed the case. At first things go well on the circuit, but soon Merritt's unresolved issues start creeping in, and then an unexpected tragedy threatens to derail her dreams for good.
Merritt is an odd heroine, when you compare her to far more feisty, plucky heroines that usually populate young adult horse fiction. She is passive to the point where you want to shake her. Things happen to her rather than vice versa. But there are reasons for this, and she is easy to root for. However, she does not change much over the course of the book. As for Red, his narrative is quite entertaining, even if I found the constant classic rock references somewhat irritating as the book went on. The author is clearly knowledgeable about the horse show world, and I didn't find any random mistakes (that often crop up in books like these). I felt the last third of the book went off course (sorry) and did not maintain the momentum it had previously done, but overall, I enjoyed the book.