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Dark Horses
Cover of Dark Horses
Dark Horses
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The iconic author of Gossip Girl brings a dark and heart-wrenching addition to the girl-meets-horse canon. In the lens of addiction and the long road to recovery, this is a contemporary update to Black...
The iconic author of Gossip Girl brings a dark and heart-wrenching addition to the girl-meets-horse canon. In the lens of addiction and the long road to recovery, this is a contemporary update to Black...
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Description-

  • The iconic author of Gossip Girl brings a dark and heart-wrenching addition to the girl-meets-horse canon. In the lens of addiction and the long road to recovery, this is a contemporary update to Black Beauty.
    Merritt Wenner has been adrift ever since the untimely death of her grandmother. After skipping out on the SATs to go on a bender, she wakes up to discover that her absentee parents have committed her to Good Fences, a residential equine-assisted therapy program.
    Red, a thoroughbred racing reject, is a terror in the barn. He's never felt an attachment to anyone . . . until he meets Merritt. They belong together. Soon they're sneaking off for late-night rides, which is strictly against the rules. Their talent does not go unnoticed. Sprung from Good Fences by the facility's mysterious benefactor, Merritt and Red plunge into the competitive equestrian circuit—with all its seductive glamour and twisted jealousies. After a tragic incident, Merritt must choose between the boy she's fallen for and the horse she loves.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Prologue
    Red

    I'm dying. Whatever I drank from those boxes has made me very, very sick. I can't find my stall. The ground lists and sways beneath my hooves as I stagger around in the dark, looking for it. I stop to get my bearings. My sides heave and my head hangs heavy, almost to my knees. Every loud moaning breath startles me, but there's nothing I can do to fix me. This is the end. I'm outside the barn now. The storm is over and the skies have cleared. The earth is a just-baked pie left out to cool. I splay my long legs like a newborn foal and pump giant breaths of sweet steam through my distended nostrils. In, out. In, out.
    Over in the main ring the jumps loom, huge and beautiful in the moonlight. In just a few hours she and I are supposed to jump that course. We're supposed to ace it. We're supposed to win. That's highly unlikely now. More like, Bye-bye my American pie. You made living fun. But this must be the day that I die.
    I find a patch of muddy grass and lie down to sleep and replay my favorite dream. In the dream we're together again, just the two of us, with no interruptions. I have her all to myself and she's not distracted by anyone, girl or boy. We're not competing either. We just hang out, like old friends.
    It was an accident how we came to be in the same field at the same time, looking into each other's eyes, forgetting everything and everyone else. I wasn't looking for her, and I'm pretty sure she wasn't looking for me, but I could sense then—exactly then—that everything was about to change; it had already changed. Standing in front of me was my whole reason for existing. Actually, I hated her at first. I hated everybody, and she hated me. But then I liked her. I didn't care, and then I did care—a lot, too much maybe. It's almost impossible to explain, especially in my current state. But I will try.


    PART 1
    The previous October

    1 | Merritt

    There's this thing I do when I know something's expected of me. I a) run away, b) make a big mess of it, c) all of the above. It's like instead of anticipating failure and disaster and doing my best to avoid it, I go right ahead and make the disaster happen, so I can be right about it being a disaster and a failure, and the resulting disappointment is like a perverse triumph. Like, see what you made me do? I told you I was going to mess up.
    Today's disaster began last night when I decided to go to a party instead of eating a nice healthy dinner and going to bed early. My parents were at a screening for a film about Pythagoras made by one of their former students. They ordered sushi for me and made me promise to get in bed at nine.
    As soon as they left, I went out.
    I didn't even really know Sonia Kuhnhardt, the Chace senior hosting the party, but she lived near Lincoln Center, which was semi-convenient. All the Upper East Side private girls' schools like Chace and Dowd are so small everyone recognizes everyone and it feels like we know each other, even when we don't. Sonia lived in a brownstone, not an apartment. Girls sat on the stoop smoking cigarettes, and music drifted out of the upstairs and downstairs windows. The kitchen was huge and messy. Boxes of wine were lined up on the counter with real wine glasses. It was so private-school superior to serve wine at a party instead of beer, but I didn't mind. Wine is stronger.
    I picked up a glass and an entire box and carried them over to the large sectional sofa, claiming a lonely spot on one end. I didn't come there to socialize. I'd come to obliterate the SAT, which I was due to take the...

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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 4, 2016
    Gossip Girl author Von Ziegesar turns her attention to the competitive horse show circuit. Seventeen-year-old loner Merritt Wenner, still mourning her grandmother’s unexpected death a year ago, resorts to destructive behavior that gets her self-absorbed parents to seek help for her at an equine therapy program in Connecticut. There Merritt meets Red, an unruly former racehorse. Riding together cements their bond and leads Merritt to train and compete with Red alongside an attractive Californian named Carvin, with Beatrice, an unstable teen, as Red’s groom. Alternating narratives switch between the viewpoints of Merritt and Red, the latter an unusual choice that doesn’t entirely pay off: while it foreshadows the dangerous extent of Red’s intense feelings for Merritt, his frequent invoking of misheard song lyrics (“We were an island in the stream. Sweet dreams were made of bliss”) and other anthropomorphized commentary tends to grate as the plot intensifies. Still, Von Ziegesar’s knowledge of equestrian competition and the compelling pairing of a troubled horse with an equally scarred teenager make this an engaging, if somewhat predictable read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Eric Brown, Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2016
    A troubled teen finds her temporary soul mate in a troubled horse. At Red's only race, the 3-year-old thoroughbred jumps the track rails and causes a terrific accident. Mr. de Rothschild, a wealthy white man (everyone seems to be white in this book except Luis, a Latino groom), buys him for his troubled 18-year-old daughter, Beatrice, but when, unsurprisingly, she can't handle him, he donates the horse to a therapeutic equine center he has founded. Merritt, 17, arrives there after going on the lam from her private Manhattan school's SAT. Although the patients don't actually ride the horses, Merritt rides Red, and the two form an immediate, unrealistic bond. Without any training the young horse and occasional pleasure rider are suddenly capable of tackling a course of fences. De Rothschild sees dollar signs and shoves the pair into the high-end show circuit, with Beatrice along as groom. Merritt flirts with Beatrice but falls for a dishy boy rider; Red becomes jealous; trouble ensues. The narration alternates in chapters between Merritt and Red, who comes off as an equine version of an abusive boyfriend. Von Ziegesar, known for her Gossip Girls series, nails teen dialogue and horse-show society, but her side characters are all cardboard cutouts, and her plot is a hopeless, melodramatic morass; the horse-as-thwarted-lover aspect feels icky in the extreme. A soap-operatic blend of Romeo and Juliet and My Friend Flicka. Yikes. (Fiction. 12-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2016

    Gr 8 Up-Von Ziegesar, best known for the "Gossip Girl" series, makes a solid return to the world of privileged and troubled teens. Merritt Wenner has been struggling with just about everything since the death of her beloved grandmother and her grandmother's horse. When she crosses the line, her parents send her to Good Fences, an equine therapy program for troubled girls. Merritt strikes an unusual connection with Red, a wild and aggressive horse whom nobody else can control. Their bond makes Merritt a standout rider, and she and Red soon find themselves stars of the competition circuit. As she builds relationships with her groom and another rider, Merritt begins to heal, but the horse becomes increasingly possessive and jealous, with disastrous results. This work alternates points of view between Merritt and Red. This is as effective as it is entertaining. Red makes a complex and somewhat unpredictable antagonist, and once a radio is placed in his stall, his sections are peppered with song lyrics, which provide much-needed levity as his possessiveness turns threatening. Other than Merritt, the human characters are a fairly stock combination of the rich and the miserable, but it's unlikely teens will pay them much mind as they read on to see what Red will do next. VERDICT While Von Ziegesar's original fans have long since moved on to adulthood, this page-turner will draw in a whole new audience, with just the right blend of glamor, scandal, and horses. Recommended for public and high school libraries.-Elizabeth Saxton, Tiffin, OH

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Magazine "Sophisticated. Von Ziegesar takes seriously the inner lives of characters who in any other teen narrative would be stock villains."

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