Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Date: October, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Racing, Fiction, Orphans, Horses, Love, Fantasy
Publisher Description: Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Alice says: Like it.
I have to say, I was skeptical about this book. The last time I liked a book that centered around horses was during my Black Beauty phase–and that was a long time ago (not really, it’s sitting on my bookshelf right now and I love it…but don’t tell anyone. It’s hard enough being the Ph.D. student in the Lit department focusing on YA and Children’s books. Everyone looks at me like I’ve lost my mind or I don’t know how to read “good”). Please don’t misunderstand me though. I love animals. Like I said, I like some animal books (looking at you Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Webb). Luna, my puff-ball of a Pomeranian (who I am sure you will hear about quite a bit in this blog) is the love of my life–I just tend to read books that don’t center around animals. Maybe I never recovered from Animporphs (God they were sooooo awful but my brother read every single one so I did by default). I just tend to gravitate towards the human struggle. I love the battle between good and evil. I love a good romance. I love a good villan. I have to say though, Maggie (may I call you Maggie?) got it just right.
The Scorpio Races is a story about life and death. It is a race to the finish line. It is just the right mix of a story about the human struggle and a plain old fashion horse race (water horses–capaill uisce to be exact). You fall in love with the characters but also with the animals and the world around them. You can feel, taste, and smell this book. That is both good and bad–and I liked it. I could smell the water horses, their saltiness and peutridness, but also smell the sweetness of the Island’s bakeries, the grass swaying in the ocean breeze. I felt like every time I opened a page of this book I was actually in Thisby with Puck, Sean, Corr, and Dove.
Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the Scorpio Races, is both loveable and believable. You spend the entire novel pulling for not only her but her entire family. She is funny, sweet and loyal and doesn’t know the meaning of the word no. This novel is about family and loyalty and Puck is at the center of it all. She is fearless and proud– a character worthy of standing up to other heroines in popular YA literature today.
Sean Kendrick, the reigning champion of the Scorpio Races, has everything to lose if he fails to win for the fifth time at the Scorpio Races. Sean, like Puck, knows about family and loyalty. Even though his family is less conventional than Pucks, he is devoted nonetheless. His relationship with his capaill uisce , the ferocious Corr, is one of the most well written I have seen in YA literature in quite some time. It really captures you and makes you pull for the unconventional pair.
Rabbit says: Grades 9-12
Interest Level: Grade 9-12
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.5
Lexile® measure: 840L
Guided Reading: Z
Caterpillar Says: Loyalty
The strongest theme in the Scorpio Races is loyalty. Puck is loyal to her brothers and the memory of her parents. Sean is loyal to the memory of his father, Corr, his racing family, and the ocean. Both Sean and Puck are loyal to Thisby and their way of life. There is a sense of loyalty to the people, places, and memories that belong to you that Stiefvater has embedded throughout the entire novel. She builds a home for her characters and the reader that is so grounded in Thisby and it’s inhabitants it is hard to leave it days after you finish the book. Mind you, this is not a home centered on a place (not even Thisby itself) but centered on a feeling, a community, a type of experience . I felt haunted by Scorpio Races for days after I finished reading. I felt connected to the characters and the place in a way I only do when the author got it just right.
Stiefvater also plays around with the theme of “wealth”. Meh…that isn’t the right way to put it. She seems to want to discuss the value of a person. She has characters that have much and those who have very little in regards to what the world would consider material wealth. She pits the two against each other and definitely starts a conversation about what is worth more: worldly things or the things that no amount of money could buy- the love of a family, the love of one person, the love of a loyal horse, or something as simple as the smell of the Thisby ocean on a beautiful day.
In regards to age appropriate themes: The book is age appropriate for who it is being marketed to. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll were not present in Races, though there were plenty of thought-provoking topics that could lead to great discussion.