Do you like horses and riding? If so, Appaloosa Summer might be the book for you. Written by local Ottawa author Tudor Robins, this young adult novel is about love and loss, healing and recovery. At the start of the Summer Meg loses her beloved horse Major when he dies suddenly during a competition. What follows is the story of how Meg learns to move forward during a summer spent at her family’s cottage.
Appaloosa Summer is a charming book that draws in the reader without bogging them down with too many details. For example, we know that Meg is pretty but we never actually find out what she looks like. This allows the reader to use their own imagination and to relate more closely to Meg as a character. Meg leads a charmed life, but it’s not perfect. Difficulties with her mother are teased throughout the book but are handled well, being neither extreme nor nonexistent. It feels like a normal, occasionally tense, relationship between mother and daughter.
Robins knows her characters well. She gives us a good sense of exactly who they are without going on for pages and pages of description. She also knows the island and gives the reader a great sense of the physical space where the book takes place. And of course there are the horses, a major aspect of the book, Robins clearly knows how to write about horses that almost lets you feel like you are riding one yourself.
The book is an easy, quick read, and the relationship that builds between Jared and Meg is both adorable and realistic. You’ll find yourself liking all the characters and rooting for them. Which is what makes book two of the Island Trilogy that much more heart breaking.
Book number two, Wednesday Riders, picks up at the beginning of the following summer. Meg is finishing up high school and looking forward to another summer with Jared on the island. But we quickly find out that the seemingly perfect Jared has made a heartbreaking mistake, and the summer is not going to go the way that Meg envisioned.
In order to heal and move forward — themes in both books — Meg takes up coaching a group of girls towards the goal of a musical ride, as well as taking up private sailing lessons for herself. This leads us to a cast of new characters like Adam and Bridget and Alanna. Over time we learn who these characters are and how they play their role in Meg’s life.
The one important thing to keep in mind when reading these books is the intended audience. The Island trilogy is intended for young adults, and there were times when that was readily apparent to me as a grown woman. This is not a fault however. For example, it is frustrating when Meg catches Bridget smoking and does’t tell anyone, but she’s 17, her lack of action makes sense at her age.
Appaloosa Summer and Wednesday Riders are great reads if you’re looking for something light with likeable characters. Good for all ages but more appropriate for teenage friends and family.