Skip to main content

Dark Horses


Dark Horses

DARK HORSES by Cecily Von Ziegesar, author of GOSSIP GIRL, introduces Merritt Wenner, a girl lost in the world after her grandmother’s death. When Merritt skips her SAT testing and is caught excessively drinking, her parents send her to Good Fences, a therapy program for teen girls. There she is introduced to Red, a horse who no one can ride, who seems to hate everyone and who is known for escaping from his pen and releasing all the other horses. No one knows what to do with him, until Merritt and Red are forced to work together. Merritt’s fearless approach and Red’s reckless nature creates a bond between the two, and Red and Merritt begin to ride together. Red’s owner, noticing Merritt’s skill, funds their career into the hunter/jumper circuit, a more fitting manner than Red’s previous position as a racehorse. Showing horses introduces Merritt to a new kind of life, and she begins to form feelings for Beatrice, Red’s groom, as well as being attracted to Carvin, a competing rider. Despite Merritt’s happiness, Red isn’t content with the new additions to their team. He knows that there is only room for the two of them; and he’s willing to do anything to keep it that way.

"The beautifully developed characters help the story progress....Integrating the perfect mix of romance and plot is hard to do, but Ziegesar does it perfectly."

Ziegesar creates a dark aura of the undeniable truths of dealing with the death of a loved one, while displaying the hard path to recovery. The beautifully developed characters help the story progress, as well as unraveling the different layers to both Merritt and Red’s feelings and personality. I was drawn to this book initially because of how Red, in my opinion, seemed to be portrayed as a loving but slightly neurotic and possessive character, even though he’s a horse. Just the idea of an animal with obsessive, human like qualities, seemed altogether unique compared to anything I’ve read before, and I was definitely not disappointed.
Although the writing at times can be slightly off track and occasionally a bit bland, the unique and interesting plot and characters all together make up for it. Red, at first a wild, terror of a horse, becomes a tame pet when around Merritt, but still always carrying an underlying tone of obsessive loyalty. Red’s POV doubles the interest factor, because all the actions that appear to be senseless when seen from Merritt and the other human's’ point of view, are given an explanation when the reader is able to look inside Red’s mind. Not only that, but because Red’s radio is always on, Red sometimes thinks in song lyrics and titles. This addition adds a humorous side to Red’s otherwise intense, compulsive yet loving character, and I loved spotting a song title woven into Red’s opinions.
Integrating the perfect mix of romance and plot is hard to do, but Ziegesar does it perfectly, by developing intricate involvement between Merritt and Red’s riding career, Merritt’s personal problems as well as her relationships with Beatrice and Carvin. Not only that, but the plot was well explained and every chapter left me wanting more. The foreshadowing at the beginning of the book sets up the rest of the story by making the reader intrigued to find out what could’ve happened through the story to create such a drastic situation.
This book is perfect for teens who like realistic fiction, especially anyone who’s interested in a unique storyline with plenty of twists. Anyone who enjoyed Ziegesar’s GOSSIP GIRL, or BLACK BEAUTY, has to check out  DARK HORSES --- a haunting, poignant novel.

Reviewed by Jessica K., Teen Board Member. on September 19, 2016

Dark Horses
by Cecily von Ziegesar