ACID AND BRIBERY has almost all the ingredients needed to captivate young adult readers, particularly prepubescent equine-crazy girls. Unfortunately, tossing appealing ingredients haphazardly into the stewpot doesn’t always turn out well in the kitchen, and almost never in a novel. Kelsey Kelley, the 16-year-old protagonist is an aspiring horse trainer and the brightest spot in the novel.
Well before the reader can form any bond with Kelsey, or even get a real idea of the setting, the plot is thrown into the mix. Horse racing insiders will probably appreciate the random factoids and jargon that gets thrown around early, but readers with less familiarity will struggle. Compounding the problems, it seems that almost all the supporting characters are briefly introduced too soon and without context.
This becomes a recurring theme that holds throughout. The plot lurches, characters other than Kelsey are almost cartoonish, and ideas and events that seem to be leading toward something simply peter out. For example, Kelsey’s father, who’d abandoned Kelsey and her mother five years earlier, suddenly reappears with his new wife. We get hints that he’d been an alcoholic abuser and philanderer, but that he’s changed now thanks to having found religion. Other than writing checks and hanging out at the racetrack, there isn’t really anything else to him. Kelsey does wonder about the religious influence, but only superficially and without any significant follow up.
Things happen, mostly without making much sense, seemingly just to remind us that the bad guys are still doing bad things. Some readers will slog through, drawn by the occasional action on the racetrack or because they’ve bonded somewhat with Kelsey. However, many readers will probably lose interest (or as inexcusably misspelled multiple times in the text, “loose” interest).
Other than the horrid “lose/loose” and a few other typos, the book seems to have been copy-edited. However, it really needs structural editing from paragraph structure to plotline. With few exceptions, most readers who will struggle all the way to “the end” will sigh with relief before turning the page to be confronted with a listing of seemingly random biblical verses. The verses don’t serve the story and in fact do more to highlight the weakness of the undeveloped religious threads in the novel.
A plodding plot, uneven editing, and secondary themes that go nowhere get in the way of an interesting journey into the horse barns behind the racetrack as seen through a 16-year-old girl’s eyes.
~Jeffery Bolkan for IndieReader