Review: Susan Ketchen's Made That Way & Grows That Way

I do love this trilogy: Susan Ketchen’s Born that Way books first came my way last year when I read the first of the series, Born That Way. Sylvia, Susan Ketchen’s heroine, is a brilliant creation. She’s funny, observant, and absolutely devoid of self pity about her condition, Turner’s Syndrome. It means she’s very small for her age, and she hasn’t hit puberty yet, and won’t either unless she gets hormone treatment. The fact she looks different makes her a target for the school bullies, but Sylvia tackles this in the same way she does everything else: with a quirky resolve.

In many ways, she’s far more sorted out than her parents, and quite a few of the other adults she comes across. As an adult, it’s quite easy to forget that relationships are two-way: that your view of a child isn’t all that matters. They have their own view, and oh goodness, does Sylvia have her own views. I love the fact that we see where she doesn’t understand things, and see how she works them out. I love her astuteness when it comes to other people, particularly her parents.

Sylvia’s parents, as well as being thoroughly believable, are great comic creations. Her therapist mother has a theory for everything that happens to Sylvia, and she’s always, always, just slightly off beam. She never really quite gets it right.

There’s one place where Sylvia’s condition doesn’t matter, and that’s with horses. Horses don’t care how tall you are, or whether you’ve hit puberty. Sylvia can ride, and she rides well, because she’s able to use her gifts of understanding and observation with horses. In the next two books of the trilogy, Sylvia gets a pony, Brooklyn. He’s a bit of a surprise offering. Sylvia has no idea what he’s like, because her grandfather’s bought him and is shipping him to her. When that horse trailer arrives, everyone gets a surprise, because when Brooklyn turns up, to say he’s not every girl’s dream horse is a bit of an understatement.

He too has his own way of doing things, and like Sylvia, that’s because of his genetic inheritance. The last book sees Sylvia, and her next horse Brooklyn II, getting to know each other. Brooklyn doesn’t care about Sylvia’s hormones, but hormones of all kinds are an issue in the last of the trilogy, Grows that Way. As well as Sylvia’s need for oestrogen (estrogen), there is, quite literally, a lot of testosterone about. We get to see what happens when you don’t have enough of it, and what happens when you take too much.

The last book, Grows that Way is a more fanciful read than the earlier two books: it has the Sasquatch, for a start, which Sylvia finds when she goes off for a solitary (and therefore not allowed) trail ride on her horse, Brooklyn. Sylvia’s also coming to terms with her developing feelings for her friend Logan, and his for her. I found the fanciful elements of the last book a bit of a surprise, but as Sylvia tackles them the way she has everything else in her life, it all sort of works.

I really can’t recommend these books highly enough: Sylvia for me has entered the ranks of great horse and pony book creations like Jill and Jinny. She is unforgettable.

 ~ 0 ~

Thank you to the publisher for sending me these books

Susan Ketchen: Made That Way
Susan Ketchen: Grows That Way
Oolichan Books: Grows £7.79, Made £3.69
Kindle: Grows £6.18, Made £3.31
Kobo: Grows £5.75, Made £4.31*

* Prices correct at time of writing

Age of main character: 13, 14
Themes: puberty, testosterone abuse


Anonymous said…
I've read these three books and loved every one. I highly recommend them for kids and adults alike. Well written and funny, yet tackling teen issues sincerely. Great books!
Anonymous said…
...and on the strength of your review...downloading now lol
Pam Asheton said…
With a review like that, my, you have to buy, experience.........have to! To me Susan's strength with dialogue gets it so right, next please one for adults.........!
Jane Badger said…
Yes, I'd love to read something for adults, though I do think the Sylvia books are good adult reads as well, because the adult characters are so strong.
SarahB said…
I really enjoyed this series and was disappointed to finish it. I did find the fantasy element a little surprising in the final book.
Jane Badger said…
Yes, I agree about the fantasy element - it did sit a little oddly after the rest of the series, which is very firmly grounded!

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