Acid and Bribery
Jeanne Ann Off’s Acid and Bribery is a short novel following 16-year-old Kelsey Kelley as she works behind the scenes at Derbyrun Downs racetrack in Colorado for a summer, striving to become a horse trainer. Off’s story, like the horseracing she’s discussing, comes out of the gate fast, throwing readers immediately into the action. Within the first few pages of the novel, we’ve discovered how it earned its title. Kelsey seems to be an ever-present shadow around the racetrack barns, going unnoticed in its ubiquity, when she overhears a bribe doing down for a jockey to throw a race. On the heels of that, the tracks are quarantined for a month as it appears several horses have contracted a virus or an illness induced with the aide of battery acid. It is during this quarantine that Kelsey begins her sleuthing.
It may feel a bit jarring at first as Off relies more on dialogue and action to move the story along than description or explanation. Fortunately, Kelsey exists to embody all readers’ questions as—especially in the beginning of the novel—incessantly ask questions to the other characters about what is going on around them and what to do. Admittedly, this gets irritating but it serves its function of immediately getting us into the thick of things.
As a young adult mystery, Acid and Bribery succeeds in presenting a young girl full of questions and demands for answers about the horses she loves. However, even Kelsey is sidetracked as her estranged father returns having found religion and a new wife. Thus, to avoid the emotional confrontations with her father (of which there are several), Kelsey throws herself into her work at the Derbyrun Downs. With her best friend Saira at her side, who has been teaching her about riding while peppering in a working understanding of Spanish, the two discover the ordinary dramas that knit the horseracing and breeding world together. Kelsey’s summer job becomes less about cleaning stables and more of an education in all of the corner-cutting and backstabbing going on professional horseracing between and amongst owners, trainers, and even caretakers. For those already in love with horses, Off’s novel will be a wonderful addition to any library, while readers with less of an interest in the machinations of horse breeding may struggle. Off’s prose is steady and plain, making it best suited for middle grade and young adult readers.
|Author||Jeanne Ann Off|
|Page Count||158 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|