Whitney, Kim Ablon. The perfect distance.

Author:Rosser, Claire
Position:Young Adult Review - Book Review

WHITNEY, Kim Ablon. The perfect distance. Random House, Knopf. 246p. c2005.0-375-83243-2. $15.95. JS*

The tension and self-doubts experienced by athletes at the top of the national horse riding competition (the under-18 category) are the foundation of a moving, suspenseful reading experience for YAs. It's a world Whitney knows about firsthand, which makes the story all the more powerful. The details of the competition itself, of caring for horses, of parental pressure on children to succeed, of fierce rivalry, create the strong structure on which the plot itself rests. The main character, Francie Martinez, is a top competitor. She has grown up with horses: her father is a Mexican immigrant who started as a groom and has risen to be the barn manager for a top trainer. She receives lessons in exchange for being a groom in the stables, which sets her apart from the mostly wealthy riders who are her competitors. Francie never feels good enough and yearns for the praise of the verbally abusive, self-centered trainer Rob, for whom winning is everything.

Any adolescent in any highly competitive arena, whether it is basketball or gymnastics, dance or musical performance, will recognize the truth of Francie's story. Whatever a young person perceives as his or her own weakness will surely loom large as the stress of performance mounts. In the...

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