Shiloh has had a rough time of it, bouncing from foster home to foster home, each one worse than the next. Night was once a racing stallion, a proud, strong, champion, but after being neglected and abused, he has little left but anger and fear. Together on Jess’s farm, they will see if there’s anything left in the world for either of them.
Spoiler alert: There is! Horse and girl will help each other heal! While the basic plot line is a bit trite, it’s pretty well executed and the multiple narrator style kept the pace up, even if the horse was one of the narrators.
I know little about foster care, certainly not enough to be able to tell you if Henson was relying on stereotypes or basic commonalities of the foster care system. I will say that it did read as though all foster situations are horrible and share a desire to use the children as unpaid labor. Which is certainly not the case, but it is possible that any one particular child could have encountered only this type of placement, I suppose. Anyone experienced with foster care want to weigh in on Henson’s portrayal?
Concerns about that aside, I think this book will appeal to tween and teen readers, especially the ones who are beginning to like to explore issues novels. There’s nothing in here truly graphic, but it does a good job of sharing the really hard and uncomfortable facts of Shiloh’s life.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – Shiloh writes bad words and bad names, but Henson feels no need to list them out for us. “idiot.”
Death, Violence and Gore – In a book about animal abuse and a child who left an abusive home for a series of terrible foster care placements, there’s going to be some violence. Jess has also dealt with tragedy. Throughout the book, more and more is revealed, so where the author is only implying certain things early on, she does state them more clearly later. I’ve spoilered the biggest “reveal” of the book at the end. Okay – back to the usual litany of issues. Jess’s mom died when she was little. Horses are confiscated for malnutrition, abuse and neglect. They are described as bags of bone and skin, one has scars like a noose and scars on his sides. There is talk of killing horses to put them out of their misery. A woman wonders if she’s died and “gone below.” A girl remembers the sound of smoke and has heard gunfire. A horse could squash a cat. Jess carries a knife. Shiloh says her dad was in the army and had guns and knives. Shiloh is scalded by burning hot water. Her arm is pulled. Someone is beaten with a switch. A man strangles someone. A horse kills a man. A woman has been beaten. A Shiloh is used to being hit. One man spanked her with a spoon. Someone hits the walls until that person’s hands hurt. She has multiple burn scars. Her mother was beaten repeated and she would check to see if her mom was breathing. Shiloh had to call 911 after her mother was beaten once and was bleeding heavily from the head. A horse bites and scratches people, it had to fight for food.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Horses were owned by a drunk. A man who was a drunk beat people. A drunk driver causes a car accident.
Frightening or Intense Things – Shiloh has nightmares as a result of her experiences.