"Eleanor McGraw, a pony named Mouse and a boy called Fire", by Katharina Marcus, arrived in my mailbox a few months ago, thanks to Goodreads First Reads. It had to stay on my bookshelf for a while, until I found time to read it with the necessary attention, considering that it's not written in my mother language. But when I finally started it, it was like a stone rolling down the slope of a mountain, and, after the first few chapters, I was opening it in every spare moment, to discover how it was going to continue.
I think the title is capturing, and also fitting, because it says nearly everything you need to know about the story. The main character is Eleanor McGraw, a fourteen years old girl, witty and sensitive. She is the daughter of Isabel, a well known violinist and folk music interpreter, and Jerry McGraw, a worldwide famous rock star, who are not together anymore.
Eleanor's childhood had been far from a ordinary one: she'd had different stepfathers, all more or less like her own, and she'd lived in different places, following her mother and her stepfathers around the world. Isabel is the only fixed point in Eleanor's life, and the little girl and the woman are bond by a strong and deep relationship, based on mutual respect, relative protection and honesty.
Eleanor's last home is in the South coast of England, with Isabel and Kjell, her new stepfather, who is somehow different from all the previous ones. In fact he's not a noisy and narcissist rock star, but what appears to be a quiet and ordinary dentist.
Exploring the nearby country Eleanor discovers, in a paddock surrounded by a fence, a little gray female pony, which immediately shows its friendly attitude to the girl. The thought of the pony soon becomes a sweet record in the girl's mind, so she begin to visit the little mare daily, becoming more and more involved as the time passed.
And here we are to the third title character, the boy. Peter Pike is a sixteen years old boy, who attends Elanor's school, and takes care of the pony, which is the last of his family horses. He his a tall boy, with impressively deep and changing eyes and messy hair. From here on, I don't want to reveal to much to any potential reader.
"Eleanor McGraw, a pony named Mouse and a boy called Fire" is definitely a young adults novel, but, like all the well-written young adults books, we can say it is more a novel, whose main characters happen to be young adults. One of the main strength of the books lies in the ability with which the author describes the relationships between the characters, and how complex, changing and full of different feelings at the same time they can be. The deep feeling between Isabel and Eleanor, the sweet story between Eleanor and Peter, but also the links between secondary character are painted with the variety of shades that defines real life relationships.
Mouse, the little gray mare, is not an exception: even if she can't talk, her behavior is often clearer than human words can ever be. The relationship she has with the different character is described in detail too, allowing her to outstand like a leading character in the book. These descriptions of horses way to behave, and in a certain way to think, make it undoubtedly clear that Katharina Marcus knows deeply what she's talking about.
I also liked the book because Eleanor and Peter are both young adults who had, for different reasons, an out-of-the-ordinary childhood, who always have felt and feel different from other people of their age, and because of this, misunderstood and slightly strange. This feeling prevent them from mixing themselves with other young people. I've always loved this kind of characters, who are, for one reason or another, left apart, because they are conscious of their difference, they initially suffer because of it, and they have to make, throughout the pages, an inner journey to accept themselves and be happy of what they are. Eleanor and Pike partially do this together, and their mutual identification in each other helps them doing this. So they are true, changing and developing characters, which makes difficult to part from them at the end of the book.
At last, I think it is admirable how the adult characters of the book behave, because they relate with Eleanor and Peter with great respect of their age and their ideas, supporting them and giving them the freedom to make their own choices, advising them for good but not forcing them, and are also very open minded about sex.
There is so much more in this book to discover I advice it strongly, even if I think it lost the fifth star because of the too sweetened ending of the story, which maybe satisfies more young adults than grown-ups.