Riding on Air by Maggie Gilbert

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I don’t read much Young Adult, so picking up Maggie Gilbert’s Riding on Air for the Australian Women Writers Challenge is stepping out of my comfort zone. It turned out to be a lovely trip down memory lane, plus left me impressed with the deft handling of some serious issues.

As a kid I read a lot of horse-crazy books, like those of the Pullein-Thompson sisters. I was never horse-crazy myself. I can sit on a horse if someone promises it will tamely follow the horse in front. That’s the extent of my riding skills. But I liked the passion in the horse books.

Riding on Air taps that passion but adds another layer of emotional impact. The first person narrative works really well because the heroine, Melissa, has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She is battling a number of issues.

Into this steps, Will, and he is a fantastic hero. His behaviour, at the crunch time, is so awesome without being unbelievable that I just loved his courage. It matches Melissa’s.

The twists in the story all worked and flowed effortlessly. For all that the story built and built well to its climax, there was no sense of forced action. Characters and relationships were real.

This was a YA book with the emotional depth to fully engage me as a reader. Beautifully written and the Australian horse world lovingly portrayed.

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