The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: 5 out of 5
Summary (taken from GoodReads): It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I know I’ve been writing a lot of reviews for dystopian/apocalyptic books of late. I’ve been trying to focus more on them since that’s more in the genre I’m writing. But I recently read The Scorpio Races and I loved it so much I could not resist sharing this book with you all.
Two Person Narration
I overlooked this book for a long time because, try as I might, I have not been able to get through Stiefvater’s Shiver. I just couldn’t get into the writing style (though I’m now planning on giving it another go). One thing that Stiefvater does in her books is that she tells it from the point of view of two narrators. I’ve reviewed other books on this blog that have used this technique. Sometimes I love them (see my review of Leviathan for an example). But usually, I would prefer one narrator. In The Scorpio Races, though, I think the double narrator was essential for the plot. Sean and Puck are such dynamic characters that to have not seen inside either of their minds would have been a shame. So if you usually do not like the 2-narrator approach, please, give this one a shot. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.
When Learning is Good
I felt like I learned something from this book. Often when I read these days, I no longer feel like that, or I feel like the underlying messages are not underlying at all, but rather slapping me in the face. Stiefvater has a way of weaving a plot that makes you really think without feeling stressed and like you are being tricked into thinking. Think reading Where the Red Fern Grows for pleasure vs. in an english class. I felt like The Scorpio Races could be picked apart and presented in a literary class in a way that would make the most diehard classicist proud. But, unlike some books I read in school that shall remain nameless, I did not feel like you needed to dissect this book to get the book.
So what did this book teach me? It helped me think about the inner workings of mankind, how people are more than they seem. It also portrayed a strong message about fighting for what you believe and not giving up, no matter what. And then there was the be true to yourself message, which I think is always an important message in YA books.
Another theme of the book was learning how to know what it is you want. Some people are satisfied with who they are and what they have, but others need more. The struggle to find who you are and what you really, truly want in life can be a beautiful thing, and Stiefvater did a lovely job portraying this.
I cannot forget the horses. I loved that these were not the sweet cuddly horses of fairy tales. They were sinister but still had a primal beauty to them, a thing few of the characters in the book could see. So many of the characters saw them as monsters or as toys or as an adventure, and, more often than not, things ended poorly for those shortsighted characters.
A bit of Grit
OK, you know I like my gritty settings sometimes, as long as they don’t get too gritty. And I thought this book had just the right amount.
YA even Adults can get behind
Finally, I think this is a YA book that adults can read and love. It doesn’t have the sappy love triangles so many YA books have these days (which I enjoy, but I know not everyone can get behind) and the characters have depth and real problems and fight against very real, honest obstacles. So what are you waiting for? Go find yourself a copy.