Arden Reviews: Dark Horses by Cecily Von Ziegesar

img_8223Okay, readers. I’m overwhelmed by the number of books about which I want to tell you. I’ve created a new template to make it easy for you to learn about the books I review and easy for me to write for you. You can always always always connect with me through Arden’s Book Club Facebook page for more details or insight on these books.

Happy Reading!

Book: Dark Horses

Author: Cecily Von Ziegesar (known for the Gossip Girl Series)

Intended audience: Young adult fiction

Actual audience: Animal lovers, especially horse lovers. Teens and their parents

Basic description: From the internationally bestselling author of Gossip Girl comes a dark, psychologically complex update of Black Beauty replete with jealousy, romance, mystery, and redemption.

Arden’s thoughts: If you thought Dan Humphrey being revealed as Gossip Girl flipped your lid, then get ready to totally lose it in Dark Horses. Von Ziegesar drew me into the world of young Merritt and her horse Red and wove a riveting story for readers of all ages.

We’re dropped into the world of Merritt as she deals with the loss her only earthly advocate, her grandmother, in a tragic accident. She finds solace in Red, a horse with walls against human affection so high he does nothing but lash out to everyone around him. His lashing out keeps him in isolation.

Until he meets Merritt. Then, he begins to open…

It’s Red’s isolation and subsequent opening that led me to recommend this book. When we encounter someone with walls, we tend to close off from them. We know they hurt us by lashing out, but what if we took the time to think about why they lash out and try to break down those walls? What if we believed the best in people?

I like a book which makes me take into account my own actions and makes me better without overtly preaching to me. For me, Dark Horses teaches me to really look past the seen and into the unseen. No character is perfect, but all have worth and value.

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Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen


There’s always two sides to every story. We know that… But, what happens when the cover’s lifted and we live life with one side of that story? And, what if that side shows us the story of the kid sister of a teenager who’s been sent to prison for crippling a boy during a drunk driving accident?

Ish just got heavy, right?

Sarah Dessen and me at Book Expo America.

So begins Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. It’s no secret I’m a huge Dessen fan. I met her in May 2015 at a book conference and could barely speak to her I was that star struck. Her writing for teenagers far surpasses the mediocrity we so often allow our children to read under the auspice of “at least they’re reading.” Her storytelling mixed with character development allows readers of all ages to empathize with and grow from her novels. Dessen’s books are ones families can read, and discuss, together. THAT is a huge deal in a book market full of niche marketing with a slant toward the less-than-savvy reader. (My opinion only, obvi)

In her latest novel, Dessen dives deep into the aftermath of Peyton Stanford’s final act of rebellion that landed him in jail. His kid sister, Sydney, is the one left to pick up the pieces though. She’s the one who has to deal with parents too shell-shocked about one child to truly pour into another. The one who wants an identity outside of her troublesome brother, but isn’t sure what her identity is. The one who’s brave enough to start seeking even if she’s not sure for what she’s looking.

So, we as readers find ourselves discovering Sydney throughout the pages of Saint Anything. We see her flourish from a timid girl into a strong young woman. Dessen captures the simplest of moments… making a new friend, finding a new routine… and turns them into magic.

She also captures the intensity of what crisis can do to a family. The assumptions made once one child has broken the hearts of a family and how the ramifications of said child often falls on others in his wake. And how younger siblings often idealize their older siblings in a way that makes falling from grace that much harder.

Though you’ll find Dessen’s books in the young adult section of your library or book store, she’s truly an author for all ages. Grab some french fries and a slice a pizza… once you open this book, you won’t want to close it.