This is a little story about how we never get over books from our childhood.
A couple of months ago, I was wandering around the neighborhood with my husband, Cory, and we were talking about books. We are nearly always talking about books, or horses, or what we’re going to make for supper, so there was a 33.3% chance that this was going to be the case and it shouldn’t be all that surprising.
Then I upped it and started talking about horses, as well. I was trying to think of all the horses’ names in a children’s series he’d never heard of. “There was Astronaut, and Tapestry, and there was another one but I can’t remember his name. I really liked the name Astronaut. It seemed so random and unlikely that anyone would ever call their horse that. What was the other horse’s name? Dammit!!”
But we are bookstore people, and had never seen these books on the shelves, so it seemed they weren’t widely available. Out-of-print. Remaindered. Long gone.
I would never know that other horse’s name, would I? And how frustrating, because I was pretty sure that book might have introduced me to eventing, one of my favorite things!
And then, through the magic and mayhem and whimsey that is the Internets, I got a tweet from Maggie Dana, the author of that long-ago half-remembered series of books, which I’d almost certainly bought at a yard sale on a Saturday morning bike ride and stuffed into my school backpack, telling me about her series of books about a girl named Holly, wheelchair-bound after an accident, and a girl named Kate who is hired to keep her company by her riding-instructor mother.
And I tweeted back, Wait, I’ve read this. I’ve been looking for this. Tell me more.
So it turns out, Dana was rewriting the series that I’d read when I was a kid. I got very, very excited.
I’m still excited.
Because I just finished Book One, and there are going to be more!
Like so many YA horse books, Keeping Secrets is about the friendships and rivalries that horsey girls make. Who were your truest friends and your most formidable enemies when you were growing up? Not the kids at school; they were just an annoyance you had to put with for the purpose of getting through lunch and those dreary group homework assignments. Life, and laughter, and all-out war, resided firmly at the barn.
The twists in Keeping Secrets are unique, though. Holly, the riding instructor’s daughter, is wheelchair-bound. Kate, looking for a place to stay while her father is off chasing butterflies for science, has already sworn off horses. This isn’t going to be The Saddle Club, then. These girls aren’t going to bond over trail rides and campfires.
It turns out, you can bond over other things. Sometimes you just meet someone and you’re destined to be best friends. Nervous, haunted Kate and witty, tough Holly are the perfect couple. I really love their little exchanges about various princesses and horses in their lives:
“That mare’s a menace,” Holly muttered. “She doesn’t deserve such a pretty name.”
“Luna?” Kate said. “As in lunatic?”
“No, Luna as in Moon,” Holly replied. “But they should’ve called her Venus.”
“But that’s even prettier,” Kate protested.
Holly glared at the mare. “Venus, as in Venus Fly-Trap,” she said. “Eats cats and small children.”
Of course, horses help. The girls at Timber Ridge Stables are all eventers (some better than others) and they’re prepping for a big riding school championship that will pit their eventing and horsekeeping skills against one another. Keeping Secrets gives fault-seekers like myself no reason to complain: Dana gets a clear round when it comes to horsemanship, riding, and eventing. Right down to the butterflies before a dressage round.
Her mind went blank. “I’ve forgotten the test.”
“Duhhhh,” Holly said. “You’ll remember the minute you get in the ring.” She tugged at her cap, the one with boss mare on the front. “And if you don’t, Magician will. I bet he could do it without you.”
“Good luck,” Liz said, slapping Kate’s booted leg.
“You’ll do fine, and don’t forget to smile.”
Kate bared her teeth and hoped it would do.
As if accuracy and funny characters weren’t enough, Keeping Secrets is a page-turner. I had to know what was going to happen next. I couldn’t stop reading it. I am not an e-book fan, and I was reading this on my Kindle for Mac, and I was glued to my glowing little screen.
Keeping Secrets is no repackaged re-hash of a genre horse book. It’s an exciting, clever read, with wonderful horses and dedicated horsey girls and nasty barn princesses all over the place. Oh, and, that horse’s name isn’t Astronaut anymore. But I’m sure you’ll figure out for yourself which horse once went by that name. But the one whose name I couldn’t remember stayed the same: Magician.
I love magic.
Keeping Secrets is currently available as an e-book on Amazon: