Riding Chance

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Riding Chance Book Poster Image
Horse helps city boy heal in moving self-discovery tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The novel does a great job of introducing readers to various aspects of riding horses, care of animals, and the sport of polo.

Positive Messages

Riding Chance is full of instances where teens show they understand that they're responsible for the consequences of their actions, and are offered alternative solutions to acting out. There are also positive messages about perseverance, justice, and fair play.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teens in the novel have been allowed the freedom to make decisions, but not without guidance and a listening ear from family, mentors, and their peer group. Throughout the story, there are positive examples of leadership, compassion, and understanding in both adult and teen characters.

Violence

There are several instances of mild violence. There's a small scuffle that leaves one teen slightly injured, a deliberate attack during a polo match that could have ended in tragedy, and a goat is kicked but is unharmed. There's also an incident of police violence on a teen and discussion of a drive-by shootings, even though the shootings are not shown.

Sex

Mild boy-girl teen crushes and dating talk; two single adults date in the novel.

Language

Mild name calling -- someone's called "stupid." A kid says something is "kick-ass."

Consumerism

Mentions of the iPhone and the brand Polo. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink alcohol at events. Mentions of alcoholics, but we don't see them drunk. One girl at a party pretends to have been drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Riding Chance is the story of Troy, a 13-year-old city boy, who gets caught for a petty crime but avoids Juvenile Hall by being assigned work duty at the city stables. As he learns to care for the horses, ride one named Chance, and play polo, he learns about himself and copes with grief. The novel deals with the loss of a parent and an instance of stop and frisk. It also has some instances of bullying behavior and mild name calling ("stupid"). Parents should be ready to talk about these things, as well as the importance of making good choices in friends and how to cope during stressful situations. 

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What's the story?

In RIDING CHANCE, Troy and his friend Foster get on the wrong side of the law by trusting a not-so-trustable friend. Now, they're face to face with animals neither young man has seen up close before: horses that weigh hundreds of pounds. Instead of doing time in juvie, they're assigned to the local city stables, where they learn to care for the horses and about the sport of polo. This opens a door to real opportunities and healing for Troy, but it could close the door on his lifelong friendship with Foster. Can Troy manage the out-of-control aspects of his life like he controls his horse, or will his problems overtake him like a stampede?

Is it any good?

In this moving, funny, and eye-opening story, readers are taken into a world of horse care and polo as Troy tries to navigate the lightening-fast changes in his life. Riding Chance is beautifully written, and the characters are well developed and feel like family, friends, and neighbors, from the Zumba-dancing grandma to the grief-stricken dad and the self-proclaimed mayor of the block. Readers (and their parents) will love the casual neighborhood vibe set against the trials of Troy's life. Author Christine Kendall brings normalcy to a series of extraordinary circumstances in the life of a typical city kid as he learns some great life lessons while caring for horses and learning the sport of polo. 

One thing Kendall does well is allow characters of various ages and genders to act as a moral compass for the main character. It's heartening to read a story that doesn't stick to the narrative of a lonely street kid with no adults or peers available for positive influence and guidance. It's also nice to bring a rural activity -- horse husbandry -- and an elite sport -- polo -- into an urban setting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Riding Chance shows different way families and friends can positively influence teens. Who are the positive influences in your life? Do you have a mentor?

  • How can working with animals help people cope with problems? How working with Chance help Troy deal with his feelings? Do you have an outlet to help you cope with stress?

  • Discuss the stop and frisk incident. How would you have reacted if you had been held without cause? What do you think of the current nationwide discussion of police brutality and unwarranted stops on the news and in social media?

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