Tuesday, May 3, 2016

That's Not Hay in my Hair by Juliette Turner, 2016

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New York City life had crammed sidewalks, gasoline-filled puddles, and angry taxi drivers, but Juliette enjoyed the towering sky-scrapers, the half-block walk to school, and the restaurant smells wafting into her bedroom. She had never cared for a horse, let alone a long-horn, when her mother announced their imminent move to a 300 acre ranch in Texas, where they would be caring for three horses, five dogs, twenty-five longhorns, and a cat … all by themselves.
Juliette couldn’t help feeling excited, even though she’d have to climb a hill to get a bar of cell-phone service. Soon she was running from bats and snakes, rescuing a calf from a twenty-foot ditch, medicating ponies, and having adventures so crazy it’s hard to believe they’re for real—but it all happened exactly how it’s written.
Get ready for side-splitting laughs, heart-wrenching tears, and surprising life lessons learned down on the farm and shared by fourteen-year-old Juliette Turner.

(240 pages)

When I found out that this was written by a seventeen-year-old, I got it just on principle - as a seventeen-year-old girl who used to dream of writing novels, I thought it would be great to read one by a girl my own age.

Now that I have, I can honestly say that I can understand the advantage in waiting to write a novel until you're an adult. At the very least, I would say that a book by any underaged author really needs to get a lot of extra editing attention from the publisher - something that, I would guess, did not happen here. The diction throughout the novel is rather clunky (though it's truly atrocious at the beginning - if you do decide to read this book, know that it stops reading like something you'd read on Wattpad after the first two chapters!). With the rest of the book the issues mainly revolve around plot - or, actually, around the lack thereof. We get a lot of scenes, a lot of characters, thrown in that never show up again and don't really seem to lead anywhere. Yeah, I get that this is more of a memoir than a straight novel; I get that in real life sometimes random people pop in and out of our lives. But if Juliette had found a way to add more consistency in characters and a more substantial plot, the book as a whole could have been so much greater.

I mean, she's working with a lot of quality material. Who doesn't like a story about a city girl adjusting to farm life, or about the day-to-day struggles of life on a ranch? I went into the book expecting great things, and I still think that Juliette - who shows signs of being a good writer - could have tapped more into the charm of the basic scenario than she did. Plus, the ending literally had me in tears. I can't talk about it without spoiling it for you, but . . . well, let's just say that I would never make it on a ranch. I'd melt in a big sad drippy puddle the first time something like that happened.

I'll be honest: I truly didn't hate this book. At first I thought I would, especially when I was ploughing through those first two chapters. I very seriously even considered quitting the novel altogether and writing a DNF review, but I decided to push through and wound up enjoying the rest. There were still times when the prose was a little clunky, or the characters (like the spoiled rich girl at school, and Juliette's very uptight and anxious grandmother) seemed a little one-dimensional, but it wasn't so overwhelming that I couldn't enjoy the stories Juliette had to tell. And sure, on one page she's a clueless city slicker and on the next she's a tried-and-true rancher. Maybe there are a few too many random unimportant details (like the names of every single one of their twenty-six longhorns!), and maybe Juliette spends a little too much time driving home what a wonderful, kind, innocent person she is. But those are all things I can deal with, and mistakes that I probably only recognize so clearly because they remind me of ones I've made them myself. I'm sure they'll go away, though, as she continues to polish her skills by writing more books. And honestly, I applaud her for putting in all the time and effort to write, polish, and publish a book at just my age - while also being an honor student, a dancer, a singer, and rancher. I truly envy her stamina!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers program.

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