In Michael and Jennifer Grais’ YA novel, a 13-year-old’s fate intertwines with that of the legendary Lost Herd of wild mustangs that roam the canyons of Nevada. Inspired by a real horse rescue, Christa’s Luck is a teen fiction novel about Christa’s love for an endangered herd of wild horses and how her special connection with them inspires her to look beyond her own unforgivable mistakes and try again. She rises up to become a horse advocate at fourteen, whose passion and heart move an entire town to take action.
Christa Cassidy is a teen cowgirl who loves horses more than anything. She is willing to risk everything in order to keep the wild mustang herds near her home in Nevada free from capture… especially a legendary band of mustangs known as the Lost Herd. Christa inspires her sister, her best friend, and her best friend’s brother (her first crush) to join in her quest. When a tragic accident breaks Christa’s heart and her spirit, only the Lost Herd can bring her back to life. But then a storm traps the mustangs in a flooded canyon and Christa will need more than luck to save them.
Inspired by a real horse rescue, this story is about Christa’s fascination with an endangered herd of wild horses and how her special connection with them inspires her to look beyond her own unforgivable mistakes and try again. She rises up to become a horse advocate at fourteen, whose passion and heart move an entire town to take action. In the vein of Wild Horse Annie, The Horse Whisperer, and the Black Stallion, Christa’s Luck is an epic adventure story of courage, friendship and freedom.
I was never one of those horse-loving girls growing up. I was actually a little scared of them, truth be told, but I had great admiration for all my friends who rode regularly and who were as comfortable around horse stables as they were anywhere else. I mention that because Christa’s Luck is a story for everyone – animal lovers, nature enthusiasts and eco-warriors especially – that is full of heart and emotion via a young girl’s coming of age.
The beginning of the book really sets the scene, and I enjoyed Christa as a character. She’s a girl who really doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere except when she’s on a horse, and even then she’s continually comparing herself to her sister and father. I could feel her loneliness coming off the page, and it was such a great moment when she began to find friends again. I also thought the family scenes were realistically portrayed, and Christa was portrayed as a normal young woman, with flaws just like any real-life girl her age.
The best part of the book for me was Christa’s realization that she had found her passion in saving the Lost Herd and other wild mustangs from the Round Up. Watching teens experience that moment when they find something to excite and motivate them is magical, and Christa’s evolution from scatterbrained girl to a determined and passionate young woman is as much the heart of the book as the fight to save the horses. One other point: many books for middle grade/YA readers often sideline the parents as flat characters. This is not the case with Christa’s parents, and it was lovely to see a realistic portrayal of her mother and father as individuals who struggled with their own issues. There were some powerful moments when her family came together to support and assist Christa; we need more moments like that in MG/YA literature!
Younger readers may need some preparation for the loss of Lucky, Christa’s horse, as the scene is traumatic in its authenticity. Similarly, the herding of the wild stallions is vividly portrayed, and the same emotions felt by Christa will be echoed by the reader. The affection felt by the authors for these wild herds is apparent, and the descriptions of each of the horses brings them to life before the reader’s eyes. I found myself researching the wild herds after reading this book, and found them to be just as magnificent as the authors had portrayed them to be in the book.
I appreciated that the Grais’ allowed Christa to react normally to such a horrible process, and to initially respond to her anger in a manner that could be echoed by readers (letters, texts, emails to officials). Teaching kids about social justice and how they can start to make a difference without being preachy can be a fine line, and the natural portrayal of Christa’s developing social activism is a lovely example of how it can work in books. I also appreciated how the authors introduced Jenner, and how his relationship with Christa took time to develop. Getting over a loss such as the one Christa faced is not easy, and I appreciated that they allowed her time to grieve and to build a relationship with her next horse over time.
Christa’s Luck is a wonderful read for everyone, horse lovers and beyond. I would also suggest that this would make a great family read, as I think that there are some great opportunities for discussion between adults and younger readers. It’s important to remind kids of all ages that they have the power to make a difference, and that their voice deserves to be heard.
I cannot recommend this book enough as a family read, so whether you have ave a horse lover in your family or if you just want a wonderful book to read with your family, I would recommend picking up Christa’s Luck. Or, if you want a chance to win a copy to read this book yourself, you’re in luck!! To enter, simply click on this link.
About Jennifer Grais
Jennifer Grais is a singer-songwriter who recorded several albums in Los Angeles and Nashville and toured as Jackson Browne’s background singer. When she met Michael and they moved to the rural area of Topanga Canyon, CA, her childhood passion for horses was rekindled. She completed a year-long program of study with Linda Kohanov, best-selling author of “The Tao of Equus”, and “Riding Between the Worlds,” and began exploring a deeper relationship with horses. In December 2006, she was captivated by footage of a horse rescue that took place during a flood in the Netherlands at the hands of women riders. The drama of the rescue inspired the novel, “Christa’s Luck,” a young adult novel co-authored by Michael Grais. Research for the novel exposed Jennifer to the unfolding drama of the wild mustangs in the western United States and became the primary plot of the book. Read more about Jennifer and the inspirations behind Christa’s Luck.
About Michael Grais
Michael Grais has written and produced movies of domestic and international acclaim including Death Hunt, Poltergeist, Poltergeist II, Marked for Death and Cool World and more. Michael has also contributed to the book Why We Write and has taught filmmaking at University of New Mexico and in various workshops abroad. After attending New York University’s Film School and Emerson College, he earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. Read more about Michael Grais.
Michael and Jennifer currently live in Northern California with their horse, Solo and two cats Francesca and Finnegan.
For more information about the wild horse issue in America, please read Return to Freedom and Love Wild Horses.
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