On a Good Horse

Finished On a Good Horse by Darby Karchut. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“‘Easier to carry the bad when you’re mounted on a good horse.’

Alex Nash dreams of being a soccer star. Or a graphic artist. Maybe both. But being a cowboy? Nope and no way. Not if it means being anything like his seldom seen father.

Then, out of nowhere, tragedy shatters Alex’s world, and when he thinks life couldn’t sucker-punch him again, it does. He’s forced to live with Roberto Nash, a man he barely knows. Or wants to know.

Until Alex finds out his dad has bought him a peace offering of a sort, one with a red coat, lightning speed, and a fighting spirit. A spitfire of a horse that just might heal Alex’s heart and reunite father and son.”

There aren’t any words for how much I enjoyed this book. It’s really funny, which is good because it also deals with a boy who’s lost his mom and who is basically building a relationship with his dad from scratch. It’s not like they’d never met, but the divorce was acrimonious and they didn’t see each other very often.

This is Darby’s contemporary middlegrade debut, and it’s amazing. As anyone who reads her books can attest, one of her very real strengths is writing great father-son relationships, but this one is on a whole other level. Alex and his dad (Rob) have no foundation at all (seriously, Rob is the parent who sees his kid maybe once a year and shows up with a picture book for a seven year old. And it’s not entirely his fault–again, VERY acrimonious divorce and he lives far away) so seeing the two of them learn to connect is absolutely beyond touching. It doesn’t hurt that Rob, bless his heart, is not above bribery (he buys Alex a horse).

Also, a few chapters are from the horse’s perspective. This is a dangerous choice, because it could become sappy or weird or break the book’s pacing. It’s actually fantastic though; Rio is a total smartass and his chapters are wonderful and I laughed through all of them. (He’s also a bit of a marshmallow but don’t repeat that; he would bite me for it.)

I absolutely adore this book. Highly recommended.

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