The Steeplechase Secret (Free Rein)
Fifteen-year-old Zoe is finally getting the hang of life at Bright Field Stables. She's ready to take it easy and enjoy some downtime with her family, her best friends, and her horse, Raven. But then, Zoe, Becky, and Jade notice some strange things happening at the new steeplechase race track that has the whole town abuzz with excitement. Zoe promised her mom she'd stay out of trouble for once . . . but a little investigating couldn't hurt, right?
Includes an 8-page insert packed with photos from the TV show!
Zoe and her family have moved to Bright Field Stables from California. Her mother is from the small island in England, and is glad to return home, but Zoe has some trouble with settling in. She is thrilled to be able to have access to horses, and has made some good friends (Jade and Becky), but also has to deal with Mia, a wealthy girl who is rather mean. When a developer starts to resurrect a steeplechase race course on the island, the girls are all intrigued, especially since there are some cute boys whose parents work there. Mia's father is influential, so she is asked to participate in some of the first races, leaving the other girls to spy on her since they aren't included. They also feel that something isn't quite right about the way the renovation and planning are going, and get themselves in a fair amount of trouble while investigating.
Zoe's close relationship with her mother and her sister, Rosie, is especially nice to see, and she does still talk to her father via Skype, which is a reality with which many children have to deal. Jade and Becky are fairly stock characters, but Mia is quite sympathetic even though she isn't always nice. It's a pleasant change to see a rich, mean girl portrayed as a human being rather than just a literary device, and it speaks well that Zoe tries to understand the other girl's perspective.
Horse stories have a small but steady fan base, and it's always good to see a new one. Jessie Haas' Rescue is one of my recent favorites, and I love Hapka's Ponies of Chincoteague series. Free Rein, with it's wonderful Raven, will be a big hit with readers who either ride horses or would like to, and who also can get their teeth into a good mystery.