Title: My Favorite Mistake
Authors: Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka
Series: The A Circuit #2
Other Reviews for These Authors: The A Circuit
My childhood obsession with horses is just continuing to love this series. (Seriously, folks. I have like 13 stuffed bendable horses tucked away in my cabinet, and it takes all of my self-control not to play with them after reading a book about horses). The A Circuit was dishy, dramatic, and entertaining. I naturally expected the sequel to follow in that regard, and was prepared to have a few reservations about it as well. The first book had its slow moments, and sequels are always prone to losing sight of the good parts of the original novels. My Favorite Mistake turned out to be an improvement on the first book - a novel continuing the path of the first book with the added bonus of improved execution.
*Note* Be warned of spoilers for the first book, The A Circuit
Zara has already made a reputation for herself at Pelham Lane Stables after going wild at an after-hours party held there. In her attempts to ride a horse named Ford, Zara caused him to have an accident that made him useless as a competitive horse. Her reputation with the owner of the stables was saved by one of the groomsmen, but since then many of the other riders have been wary of Zara. She's since gotten onto a level of wary friendship with a few of the riders, including Kate and Tommi, two girls that she would never be friends with anywhere else. Zara may have learned something from the incident she caused and the guilt she felt because of it, but her self-confidence has yet to truly waver despite the issues she's caused. Party-girl Zara has only begun to realize the extent of her behavior and when it can cause things to go very, very wrong.
Tommi has gained confidence in herself ever since she stood up to her father and got the chance to prove to him that she could make a living with horses. Her current pet-project horse is in training; Tommi has every hope that he'll be able to be sold to a good owner with a bit of time, patience, and TLC. Selling the horse for a strong profit would be just the thing to prove to her father that she can follow her passion while still making a living, and everything that Tommi has done at the stables recently has been geared towards making that a reality. Trouble starts brewing when Tommie meets a cute guy named Alex at a party. He seems genuinely interested in her love of horses and herself...but he may just convince her that partying is more of a priority than providing the training time her horse needs to become a success.
Kate has everything going for her...if she can keep up with the flurry of things going on around her. Kate's always felt like the odd one out at Pelham Lane because of her being their on a scholarship of sorts - and that will only continue if she continues to work hard and do well in competitions, naturally. Her fears only seem to be magnified as she realizes just how much people at Pelham rely on her, and how she relies on her work to keep her mind off of her mother's returning OCD issues. Everything that Kate does seems to be with the intention of proving herself and making sure people aren't disappointed in her. She can't even really enjoy her growing friendship with Tommi and Zara or her flirtations with one of Pelham's better (and richer) male riders. When the work starts to pile up, it causes Kate to lose hours of sleep, and she almost never eats. Kate has come dangerously close to pushing herself too far, and the upcoming riding competitions may just be the final straw.
The thing with this series is that, like many series of its type (think Private or Pretty Little Liars in terms of age focus and content but lacking the suspense/mystery portion), it requires its lead characters to have strong identifying character types that allow the reader to both identify with them and see consistent growth in them throughout each novel. Static characters make for circular reading, and readers do not respond well to circular reading. What My Favorite Mistake does well is that it totally avoids the circular characterization process that some other series tend to get stuck in at times. The three main characters each have their own identifying types that manage to have a fair amount of growth going on within the novel itself. Tommi is probably the most "common" of the types. She's the character that appeals to the neutral part of the reading experience. She is likable and well-rounded as a character, but she also makes some mistakes and has lapses in her judgement that lead to learning experiences. In this case, I think the character is done pretty well. Tommi is definitely written to appeal to the majority of readers, but she's also a lot more vulnerable than her character type usually is. She constantly strives for her father's approval, and that leads her to wanting approval from a guy romantically as well. Her decisions are still on the sketchy side, but they are understandable and the reader sees a lot of push and pull in regards to her opinions on what to do for herself. She ultimately wants to prove herself to her father and work her horse the way he should be, but the hard work inevitably leads to temptation - especially when the guy puts up the front that he respects what she does (even if he really doesn't). Bloomberg and Hapka also give her some some hard things to turn over morally in regards to selling her horse to an owner that will take care of it (but, as a result, waiting for the right owner to come along) or selling the horse quickly to someone who will wear it out within a year or two. Seemingly small stuff, but I'm always up for a character having complex moral dilemmas that cause them to grow one way or the other. It's also a good way to bring conflict into Tommi's story, as she's also the character that has a more "vanilla" plot dynamic to her - Kate and Zara both have very different paths of self-destruction going on, and Tommi's story could easily be lost or perceived as boring if it doesn't contain a level of conflict and/or character development.
That being said, Kate wins hands-down for being my favorite narrative of the three girls. She's an over-worked perfectionist and always tries to live up to the image that other people have of her as a rider and a worker. I identify with Kate's goal-oriented mindset (not so much her work ethic, although I can't say I come from a situation like hers that would inspire such a crazy work ethic) and that helps so much with appreciating her character growth and setbacks. The path that the authors are taking with her character in particular is intriguing. There are two parts to it: the one deals with the issues she has with overworking herself and the feelings of inadequacy that propel her to work so hard in the first place, and the other deals with her slow deterioration of health as she works harder and harder. I've seen the former type of issue tackled before, but Kate's stress-induced eating problems gain a ton of momentum in this installment. Recently, I haven't seen the beginnings of eating issues originating from pure, subconscious stress, but it's a great and intelligent thing to tackle. Today's teenagers face scary amounts of stress, and not many of them may realize that the stress in their lives from school, work, and activities could adversely affect their health along with their social life. Readers also get so much sympathy for Kate because of how her issues are affecting her, and it makes rooting for her success and her budding romance all the more enjoyable. Zara acts as a direct contrast to Kate. She has little care for what other people think of her. She's a party girl to the extreme. She loves horses and has a sensitive side to her that is shown more in My Favorite Mistake, but she remains true to the type of person that she was in the first book. Zara's growth is slower in My Favorite Mistake in comparison to the other characters', but it still occurs and she remains highly dynamic. I will say that, out of all three of the girls, her character arc in this installment was probably the weakest due to the way she didn't grow as much - as well as the use of some cliched or expected plot elements that didn't really put a unique spin on her story arc.
The general flavor of this series is what really gets me going as a reader. To pick up one of these books is to get sucked into a whirlwind of drama, and reading a series of dramatic events can be extremely entertaining. I read so many series like this and enjoy so many because authors have a way of writing their characters and stories in such a way as to cause instant investment in the book - even if the reader is starting midway through the series and doesn't have much prior knowledge in regards to the setup, characters, or plot. My Favorite Mistake is one of the best examples of this type of story. It provides just enough backstory to catch the reader up if they've forgotten aspects of the previous book while still maintaining a very strong level of plot development. This book is filled with scandals and characters making tough decisions that come back to bite them (or reward them, in rare instances). All of those decisions make the characterization seem fluid and strong. I consistently prefer it when authors that write these novels take the chance to focus on how the characters grow with the drama versus making the drama so plot-driven that the characters stay static. Bloomberg and Hapka have a writing style that is very easy for the reader to follow and focuses more on the character end of things. In this installment, I felt the writing was tighter and had a better flow to it - it seemed like it lost a stilted quality that The A Circuit had. As always, I loved reading about all of the horse and riding stuff that the book showed. Bloomberg and Hapka don't skimp on the details, but they never seem boring. They add a level of realism to the text and raise it above some of the other books that read similarly to this series because of the detail attributed to the horse-related aspects. It also just helps to genuinely hold the reader's interest in the downtime between events.
Reading My Favorite Mistake was an enjoyable experience that reminded me of what I liked about the first book with marked improvements in some of the sketchier aspects of it. There's so much to enjoy in this series if you like drama and the particular character types that are portrayed. The horse stuff is an added bonus that really keeps the series feeling fresh and unusual in today's YA market, and the way the authors are moving it forward keeps it dynamic and interesting. Sure, there are still some clunks in the execution, but the series is strongly enjoyable and one that I'm going to continue following for a while.
Cover: These covers are okay. They'll sell well to the audience, but A) why would she wear a dress like that around horses at a horse stable, and B) it feels almost true dramatic considering that only one of the characters would really get that glammed up at such an odd time.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Copy: Received from publisher/publicist for review (Thank you, Kate and Bloomsbury!!)