Ride On | Review
by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second, $22.99 (hardcover), $14.99 (paperback)
It’s a sign, I think, of how accepted comics for young women have become (in contrast to the bad old days of a couple of decades ago, when comics were superhero stories for young men) that we finally have a horse book.
The horse book used to be a staple of fiction for girls. But horses are generally acknowledged to be easier to write about than to draw, which may be one reason it’s taken so long to get a really good graphic novel about escaping to the paddock to deal with the struggles of adolescence.
In Ride On, though, the stable isn’t necessarily an escape. It can come with its own struggles. Victoria loves horses, but she doesn’t love the competitions and the cost involved. Her friend Taylor has her own horse and is eager to compete on the circuit. After a falling out, Victoria returns to riding at another stable.
We meet Victoria at the new stable, with Norrie (very talkative), Hazel (quiet), and Sam (the boy). Norrie’s determined to make Victoria act in ways she expects, but Victoria doesn’t want any more horse friends. She might like a science fiction friend, though, as all the kids love a sci-fi TV show.
It’s pleasing to see that Hicks draws horses very well, as well as the variety of young people. She’s chosen Victoria’s hair to indicate whether we’re reading a flashback (where she has deep blue hair) or more recent events (where her hair color has faded and grown out). That prevents the time jumps from being too confusing.
The themes here are subtle, about expectations placed on certain kinds of friends, and what boys and girls are supposed to do. Sometimes we lose touch with people who were once important to us, as our interests or life circumstances change. That’s not a bad message, although it may be a little obscure for this age group.
The storyline isn’t the strongest element here; the small interactions and the growing friendships are. The various bits and pieces don’t all line up neatly together, making this a bit more mature in approach than other books of the middle school “learning life lessons” type.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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