Sunday, November 11, 2007

When Bad Things Happen to Horses

When several days ago I finished The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle, I had a moment of panic. The book delves into very real human emotions, but the emotions and events Kyle depicts are so agonizing that they traumatized me. I panicked because I suddenly thought to myself, "If I have to write something this painful in order to be a successful writer, I don't think I can do it."

Animals is a coming of age story told by Alice, a young girl growing up on a ranch. Her mother suffers from debilitating depression, and her father struggles to maintain the ranch after Alice's older sister runs away. Friendless Alice also deals with the death of a schoolmate, an unconventional crush, and the rich clients who patronize the ranch.

Kyle is a young author and this is her first novel, and it's a notable first effort in my opinion. The preteen narrator's language is plain and raw. Alice's misery comes and goes (as is the case for the other characters), and she knows too much for a child. The book delves into achingly real human emotions, and Kyle's characters are frustratingly human. Not one of them is a hero, but none of them are villains either. Most characters are kind and cruel in equal measure.

If you're in the mood for something that doesn't make you feel as though your heart has been ripped right out of your chest, now is not the time to read this book.

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