Topanga Canyon by Barbara Bryan follows the story of Matt, a fourteen-year-old boy who is forced to live with his grandfather at his horse ranch. He is assigned the job of mucking the horse stalls and helping Esmeralda with her horse. Unfamiliar with ranch life, he eventually falls in love with Esmeralda’s cooking and bonds with Ariel. Silas, whose ranch is failing to keep up with the expenses, rents his barn to Sinclair. Matt has a way with horses and calms them down, which leads to Sinclair employing him as his ranch assistant. It is there that Matt discovers the horrible method Sinclair uses to train horses. Finally adjusting to his new life, Matt must decide between his ranch’s future and doing something for the horses.
This coming-of-age story starts with an air of mystery and intrigue as to the whereabouts of Matt and slowly unfolds the story, building the same aura of surprise towards the end. I liked the suspense right from the start and where the story was leading. I know nothing about horses, so the element of surprise was prevalent throughout the book.
The descriptive writing style is simple and enjoyable. Barbara is a horse enthusiast, so the entire horse-related read was extra special. It made me fall in love with horses again and provided information about their breeds and behavior. The characters are diverse in their differences, and I enjoyed reading about Matt. What I love most is the fusion of native American culture in this book, which made the whole reading experience fabulous. Whether it is calming down Black Water or having his first sweat, Matt is a typical protagonist but a great deal more realistic with his awkwardness, silliness, and occasional blush.
Topanga Canyon: Fire Season by Barbara Bryan is a gripping coming-of-age novel that teens and young adults will be able to relate to. The story of finding where you belong and struggling to do what is right are themes that this age group often encounters. I recommend this book to young adults, horse lovers, or anyone looking to enjoy a good read about horses.
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