CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 30. . . .April 6, 2018
Rides That Way is the fourth in Susan Ketchen’s series (Born That Way, Made That Way, Grows That Way). By the time we get to Rides That Way, we have learned that Sylvia has Turner Syndrome, a rare genetic anomaly that affects one in 2,000 to 2,500 births and only affects females (Turner Syndrome Society of Canada). The most notable signs of Turner Syndrome is short stature. Although this syndrome is a major part of Sylvia’s story and does, to a degree, set Sylvia apart from her peers, Ketchen does not dwell on Sylvia’s uniqueness, but rather focuses on the aspects of adolescence she shares with her peers.
The story opens with Sylvia riding her horse Brooklyn in a competition where she has possibly pushed her horse beyond its limits. Her exhilaration is tempered by the apprehensive reaction of her coach and her cousin. As Sylvia reflects on her relationship with her horse, her riding coach, her family and her potential love interest, Sylvia finds herself coming to terms with her future and how to make the best choice for herself regarding managing her Turner Syndrome.
Sylvia’s first person narrative, albeit perhaps too naïve, is a refreshing change from the cheeky tone of many current narrators. She is genuine, unaffected and sincere in her presentation of herself. Naturally, we see the other characters through her lens, but, as she is a gentle, loving person, the reflection of the other characters is unaffected and can be taken at face value.
There is good drama that keeps the pages turning, although the climax does not come from the bulk of the plot of this book. Instead, it comes from drama that has built up in previous books of this series. In other words, if you are reading this title as a stand alone, which certainly works, the part at the end where a classmate is dealing with a sexual predator comes as a bit of a surprise.
The stable is the best drawn locale. The sights, sounds and smells of life with horses are easy to conjure.
The struggle is to know where this book might fit in a school library. The innocence of Sylvia’s voice and her naivety doesn’t always match up with the plot. Readers looking for a gentle horse book will be shaken by some of the mature subject matter while readers looking for something edgy may find Sylvia’s voice implausibly naïve.
However, Rides That Way is a refreshing narrative which stands nicely on its own and will be sought after by fans of the first three titles in this series.
Ruth McMahon is a professional librarian working in a high school library in Lethbridge, AB.