Victoria loves horses. She used to share that love with her best friend, Taylor, when they rode and competed together. But when Victoria decided she’s more interested in riding for fun, while Taylor stayed intensely focused on competing, a rift opened between them that wound up destroying their friendship.

Which is why Victoria has left the elite stable where she used to ride for a smaller, more relaxed stable. Here she can enjoy spending time with the horses. No competitions . . . and no so-called friends. Victoria has been focused on horses for a long time, in part because riding and competing were Taylor’s all-consuming interests and the basis of their friendship. So, Victoria wants nothing to do with the other riders at Edgewood Stables. At least, not until she realizes that her peers at this stable aren’t like Taylor: they have other interests in common than just horses, and they value friendship above competition. It’s not until the kids at her new stable start talking about “Beyond the Galaxy”—a low-budget sci-fi TV show that Victoria used to love—that she realizes she can bond with people over more than one thing. Hicks notes that parts of the story are inspired by her own years as a Horse Girl, as well as her own experience with being hurt by a childhood best friend.

This is a story about finding your people and embracing your interests, as well as about horseback riding and silly sci-fi fandom fun. We also get glimpses of the various family dynamics that Victoria and her friends go home to: Victoria lives with her big sister and mentions that she got into “Beyond the Galaxy” because she would escape to her grandmother’s house to watch it when her parents fought. Victoria’s new friend Norrie resents her accomplished older brother for setting such a high bar academically, but when Norrie gets in trouble, he ends up being more supportive than she expected. Another new friend, Sam, has two rowdy older brothers who tease him a lot, but also show up for him and cheer him on.

There is no violence in the story and no action more harrowing than a brief topple off a horse. No sexual content and only the faintest hint of a possible future romance. The book does touch on some sad situations, like Victoria’s broken friendship with Taylor, but ends on a happy and hopeful note. The characters’ ages are not stated, but they seem to be about thirteen.

The art will be familiar to fans of its Eisner-award-winning creator. Like her other original graphic novels, it has a style of expressive, slightly simplified realism, with rich backgrounds and characters drawn in poses that look natural and dynamic. This book includes a lot of horses along with the human characters, and many of the settings are horse-centric, but we also get scenes at characters’ homes, a library, and other places. The colors are generally natural and realistic, but sometimes bright backgrounds are used to reflect a character’s emotional state or add drama to an action sequence.

This uplifting, realistic story will appeal to fans of other contemporary graphic novels that feature tween girls navigating friendships and feelings. Hand it to readers of of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer L. Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

Ride On
By Faith Erin Hicks
Macmillan First Second, 2022
ISBN: 9781250772824

Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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