________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009


Venom. (Orca Sports).

Nikki Tate.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
168 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-071-8.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Elaine Fuhr.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I looked down, into the fridge. Beer. Half a sub sandwich. Something slimy in a plastic container. "I wonder what this—" I reached in for the sandwich container, ready to make a joke about Big Joe's eating habits when I see something behind it. A container with a strange label. I pull it out and read it again to make sure I haven't made a mistake.

"Venom," I say.

"What? I don't even know what we're looking for," Em says.

"I do." I hold the container out to her.

"Venom?" she says.

I open the lid; inside is an unlabelled vial.


Sixteen-year-old Spencer works at the racetrack. He loves exercising the horses, feeding and watering them, and especially working alongside Em, the stable owner's niece. After leaving an abusive mom to live with his grandmother, Spencer begins working with Scampy at the track and that only makes things worse with his mother. Three years before, Spencer's dad had been killed by a horse at the track. Now Spencer has found his true passion working with the horses, and his mom is furious. To make things worse, he is not doing well in his grade 10 classes, but he just doesn't care. Spencer is very sensitive towards the horses he works with at the track, and Lord of the Flies, an excellent horse, is a favourite. As Spencer exercises Lordy, he becomes one with the beauty, feeling every move of the familiar gait, aware of each breath or twitch of an ear. He knows something is wrong with Lordy, but he can't convince Scampy because his horse is placing well. When Spencer sees Tony coming out of Lordy's stall with an empty syringe, Spencer must not only convince Scampy, but, with the help of Em, prove that Lordy is being doped.

     Author Nikki Tate has written an entertaining story about life behind the scenes at the race track, seen through the eyes of a teenage boy who is passionate about the beautiful creatures that his dad so loved. Venom is a story of intrigue, but it is also a realistic look at teen life including emotions, trials and troubles of the typical youth. Young people will enjoy this novel because they will be able to relate to Spencer's experiences.

Highly Recommended.

Elaine Fuhr is a retired teacher living in Alberta.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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