High-school senior Savannah Barrow has never had much in her life; her paycheck-to-paycheck life almost crumbled when her mom passed away, and it's only now starting to look up because her dad has secured a job at the Goodwin stablesÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??the only way they can afford housing and the new baby his very-pregnant girlfriend is expecting. Never having had much privilege, her options for the future are pretty limited. If she can just get her dream job of jockeyingÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??which isn't unheard of for girls, but certainly uncommon, and not to mention extremely dangerousÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??she can at least make a living, and her future baby sister won't have to suffer through her childhood like she did. College is obviously out of the questionÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??she couldn't even dream of affording itÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??and there isn't anything in the world she's rather do than spend time with horses, anyway.
But then she meets one mischievous, gorgeous boy with stunning blue eyes, and her whole world is turned upside-downÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??not because of the whirlwind of a romance he consumes her in, but because he shows her what she's really worth... and for the first time, she discovers what she can do beyond her lowly roots if only she believes in herself.
Jack Goodwin is trouble from the start; with his irresistible smile and a cocky attitude, he's a gentleman and a heartbreaker... a deadly combination for Savannah. Despite being firm in not falling for the boss in the beginning, she swoons over him BAD, which I found a little unrealistic. She seems like a strong, solid girl otherwiseÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??one who doesn't go googly-eyed over pretty boysÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??but the way she admitted her desires to get to know Jack on an intimate level, and then continuously resists these urges, made her a really conflicting character.
Savannah and Jack are both generally unimpressive characters. There are qualities in them that I really likedÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??feisty, selfless strength, and Southern romantic charm, respectivelyÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??but overall they are weakly developed and nothing about either of them stand out to me. Savannah in particular is not that deep of a narrator; readers do get personal glimpses of her past and her deepest desires, but she is neither clever nor adventurous in style. This may sound weird, but in my head, her first-person perspective just droned on in monotone. It was never beautiful or tragic or heartbreaking... it just wasÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??in the most basic, unfulfilling sense. It's not that I dislike her, because all in all she is a very admirable character; I just wish she'd been portrayed a bit more complexly, more entertainingly.
The flirtation that blooms between her and Jack will make your pulse raceÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??Kenneally captures young love, secret love, our-parents-can't-find-out-about-us love expertlyÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??but again, I feel like it just didn't have a good foundation. It seems very forced and unrealistic, with very little interaction between the two characters before Savannah's already swearing she's in love. While the boss/worker forbidden romance clichÃ?Æ?Æ?Ã?â??Ã?Â© is unstimulating, I absolutely love how Kenneally explores class difference in the form of an off-limits relationship. This is the first YA novel (in my working memory) I've read that presents the taboo of dating outside your own socioeconomic statusÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??Savannah being a working-class citizen and Jack being a disgustingly rich and privileged estate heirÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??and it's interesting and relevant because it's a divide that exists in our time and age, whether we want to admit it or not.
Kenneally vividly probes the jockey life and the world of horse racing, as well. Racing Savannah's biggest strength lies in its setting and world-building; you can practically smell the dirt on the racetracks, feel the dankness of the hot stables, and visualize the green pastures of the Goodwin estates. I was pleased to gain an insider's look of equestrianism as well; horse training and racing are fascinating, and Kenneally definitely portrays them well.
Pros: Smooth, readable; appropriate tone for younger readers // Class barriers successfully depicted, which is an uncommon and difficult issue to tackle in YA fiction // Vibrant setting // Cute banter between Jack and Savannah // Very detailed, personal account of the connection between horses and humans and the world of racing // Makes me anxious to get to know other characters, whose stories are told in previous books in the series
Cons: Mild, indistinct characters // Savannah isn't that exciting or compelling of a narrator // No climax // Unconvincing romance // Predictable, flat, unrealistic
Verdict: Readers are reminded of the excitement and turbulence of teenage romance in the latest book of the popular Hundred Oaks series. Savannah's struggle to keep her feelings for Jack hidden because going public with him would embarrass both families, as well as sabotage her own family's workÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??work they can't afford to loseÃ?Æ?Ã?Â¢â?¬â??and to discover her true potential will strike a chord with young adult readers (ages 12-16). The uncertainty of heartbreak, the freedom from social constraints, and the loyalty of friends and family make Racing Savannah an emotional, eventful addition to YA sports fiction and contemporary romance. Although I found the relationship to be unrealistic and the characters bland, Kenneally's newest novel progresses effortlessly and is a stormy, but satisfying ride.
Rating: 7 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): Not perfect, but overall enjoyable; borrow, don't buy!
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Miranda and Xpresso!).show more