Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers for an honest review.

Racing Manhattan by Terence Blacker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Jay isn’t much like the other teenagers around her, but she’s uniquely good with ponies. Even as a Thoroughbred, Manhattan has never made a positive mark as a racehorse. The pairing of these two misfits will be a fight involving more than a racetrack in Racing Manhattan, a novel by author Terence Blacker.

Well. Even with the “cheering” language in this book’s official blurb, don’t mistake this for a “cheerful” tale. Despite being a story of a young lover of ponies, horses, and riding, it isn’t the stuff that light and delightfully corny family horse flicks are made of.

Much of it is more melancholy than that, grittier, displaying family tragedy and dysfunction; sexism, bullying, and blackmail; and the seedy side of horse racing. The heroine, outcast that she may be, isn’t a timid or “wallowing in woe-is-me” sort, but she’s full of rage and determination. And yet, she isn’t a snarky jerk, she isn’t totally beyond intimidation, and she doesn’t forget how to smile.

Speaking of jerks, though, some of the characters did tire me a little. There’s a stretch when it seems that just about everyone Jay encounters is sarcastic, condescending, dismissive, or what have you, and an abundance of people being “mean” to the protagonist can get as irksome as an abundance of people being too friendly. But it all starts to balance out in due time, without being cheesy about it.

So, no, it’s not a cheerful story, but it is relatable and inspiring, with a moving and rather brilliant style. Definitely glad I picked this young adult novel up.
Note to my blog readers: this novel contains one instance of language I wouldn’t use.


I used the book cover from the previous edition of Racing Manhattan because I feel it’s a better fit for the story. But if you pick up a copy of the US edition to release in May 2018, it’ll have the cover below.


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