Thief of Happy Endings – Kristen Chandler – Viking Books for Young Readers – Published 19 June 2018
Cassidy Carrigan wasn’t planning to ever get on a horse again. She wasn’t even planning on going to back to school after her dad moved out, her best friend ditched her, and her anxiety took over. But then she wasn’t planning on being shipped off to a ranch in the mountains of Wyoming as a charity case either. Or falling for a cowboy with a broken nose and an even more broken soul. But sometimes you just have to do a stupid, dangerous thing to have the time of your life.
Horses, mountains, romance and new beginnings – Thief of Happy Endings has all the makings of a perfect YA contemporary that grabs your heart. Thief of Happy Endings is thoroughly charming in a down-to-earth, back-to-basics, raw and real way. It touches on so many important themes, from racism and prejudice, bullying and relationships, and divorce and parenting to anxiety and mental health, physical abuse, and the capture and treatment of wild mustangs. All these elements come together in a beautiful story that is utterly moving.
Cassidy’s parents are sending her to the middle of nowhere, Wyoming, to a horse ranch. Cassidy hasn’t been around horses since she was a young girl and suffered serious injuries from a fall. But fear of horses is just one more thing turning her stomach to knots. Settling into the ranch, fighting with her new bunkmates, and working with wild horses is nothing like she expected. This summer Cassidy will do more than just face some of her fears, sh might even learn to embrace them.
Horses. I believe there could never be enough books about horses. Especially for older readers. Animal cruelty, the amazing bond between horse and rider, and the contention of wild horses vs land owners bring a seriousness and maturity to Thief of Happy Endings. The setting of The Thief of Happy Endings is perfectly rustic. I thought I could smell the mix of horse and hay and summer days seeping from the words. Campfires, big open skies, and living in basic accomodation with people you don’t know or necessarily like all brought back fond memories of my own camp experiences – we just didn’t have access to wild horses.
Cassidy is a complex character. At first I thought she was overly judgmental. She is quick to label people in what seems stereotypical or judgmental. But as the story developed and Cassidy started to work through her fears, it becomes clear that she is a caring and kind girl, who all too easily can get caught up in her own head and anxieties. I loved her character development, loved her journey, loved that she was willing to face her ears but also knew when to accept things as beyond her control.
And then there is the romance. Oh my goodness. There are so many things I loved about it, I’ll have to list them:
– Cassidy is not instantly attracted or drawn to Justin.
– Justin is not the most amazing specimen of man flesh to ever be created. Instead he is an average guy, with flaws and history and depth and it is that that finally draws Cassidy to him.
– The romance doesn’t start to develop until well into the book, leaving time for readers to first get to know the characters and then for the relationship to develop slowly, naturally, and with more than a few bumps along the way.
– The romance never gets in the way of all the other important messages of self-discovery and friendship.
– A great ending. Realistic, hopeful, sentimental in the best way and yet totally real.
The Thief of Happy Endings, as charming as it is authentic, is a touching story of self-discovery and bravery, set against the gorgeous backdrop of wild Wyoming.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Horses, anxiety, friendship, family, family breakdown, mental health, wild horses, mustangs, abuse.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. Infrequent coarse language, sh** (25), as***** (1), bit** (3), pi**(8), di** (2). Physical violence. References to animal cruelty and injury. References to alcohol addiction.
Published: 19 June 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 416 pages.