Review: Katharina Marcus - Boys Don't Ride

Why does Katharina Marcus not have a publishing contract? Why? I loved this book (well, novella, because it's not actually that long). I read a lot of horse fiction and Boys Don’t Ride is streets ahead of most of it. Complete towns and villages, in fact.

The author is wonderful at getting those more subtle nuances of the teenage state that pass most authors by: the isolation many feel; the difficulties of getting by even when you appear to have everything going for you. Tull, because of his staggering good looks, gets attention he doesn’t want. The attention hasn’t made him arrogant, or given him that gloss of self confidence the good looking often have. He’s gentle, and he loves horses. Always has done, but he keeps it very quiet, not least because his mother (yes, it is the single parent thing again but I will allow such a good author the odd cliché) doesn’t have the money to pay for lessons. When his absent father doesn’t top up his school canteen account, Tull doesn’t even have the money for food.  

Tull is to some extent a misfit, and so is Liberty. She doesn’t look like everyone else for a start, because of her repaired cleft palate, and she has a resolute and utter self possession. You simply can’t imagine Liberty posting selfies. She doesn’t see why she should engage with other people at school, so she doesn’t. She’s probably the one girl at school who doesn’t fall at Tull‘s feet. And of course she is the one he likes. It’s through Liberty that he finally achieves something he’s wanted all his life: to be with horses. There are so many wonderful little bits of description in this book, and I loved the way the child Tull would race out of his house just to look at horses as they went by. He’s waited years to get nearer to horses, and finally he manages it.

Liberty works at the local stables in order to ride. He learns how to look after horses, and helps out at a charity event at the stables. Something else I loved was the fact that everyone else knows so well what the whole thing’s about that it doesn’t occur to any of them until the day that actually, Tull has no idea who’s coming and why. The whole thing is dealt with quite, quite beautifully.

Katharina also succeeds in giving us a properly realised environment: we see all aspects of the characters’ lives; school as well as home, and of course the stables. Her characters don’t exist in a vacuum.  She’s packed in this rich, brilliant world, full of layers of feeling and understanding into a short book.

And you know what? You don’t even have to pay for this book, because the ebook version is free to download on Goodreads. If you are any sort of fan of YA literature, go straight off and get hold of a copy of this book. It is a great, great read.

~  0  ~

Katharina Marcus: Boys Don’t Ride
Paperback: £3.49
Ebook: free on Goodreads

Age of main character: 17
Themes: terminal illness, cleft palate, poverty, romance


Sea said…
It's a great read - loved it!
Jane Badger said…
Isn't it great? One of those books that really sticks with you.

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