Book Review: The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle ★★★★

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“People are much more dangerous than anything your mind can make up while you’re sleeping.”
“Like people you can’t trust?”
“Yes,” he answered and his voice was quieter. “They’re the most dangerous.”
“How can you tell who they are?” I asked.
“That’s easy,” he said, inhaling slowly from his cigarette. “They’re the people who are the hardest to stay away from.”

This was such a great book. For a debut author, this was an impressive and promising novel. I thought it was so well done and am excited to see what more the author comes up with!

I read this at the request of my best friend, who more often than not has the same taste in books as I do. She was certainly not wrong about this one! It was an extremely well-crafted novel and I read it in like two days.

The story was so engrossing and captivating, despite not too much actually happening throughout the course of the novel. There were a lot of different plot points introduced in the beginning and I thought they might become jumbled or confused as the story progressed, but they were handled very well. They often played out in ways that I was not expecting, but that felt real and true to the characters. And human nature in general.

This book was very human. Everyone was deeply flawed in their own way and having the protagonist be an eleven-year-old girl was a really interesting choice. We see, as Alice begins to, that life and people are messy. As she grows up, and learns more about herself and those around her, her innocence and naivety are left behind. This is not just a typical coming of age story, however. Alice by nature is very mature and serious anyway, even when the story begins. She has already been through certain traumas that have left her hardened and cold toward the rest of the world. But she doesn’t really understand people yet, doesn’t understand their desires, fears, and choices. Watching through her eyes as she toes the lines between childhood, adolescence, and adulthood is enthralling.

I love horses, no doubt, but the way the barn and life as a horse owner in the desert was depicted was not enviable in the slightest. It was so brutal. Which did feel authentic to how I imagine a breeding stable might be out there. There were snatches and moments of beauty, but overall, the harsh reality of raising and showing horses in Alice’s world was not pretty. She was so used to the pain and hardships, even at such a young age, because she grew up around it. It was important to see her rich friend Sheila’s reaction to things like weening foals and integrating a foreign mare into a pasture of established broods. Sheila kind of forced Alice to reevaluate things that she just accepted as normal or commonplace. She made her think about her own reactions to the world around her and make her own decisions. The other rich women coming to the barn did so, as well.

All of the characters were written in a way that felt very real. None of them were perfect or even all that good. They were not wholly likable and oftentimes they were deceptive, cruel, selfish, and harsh. They felt very true and were depicted as fully fleshed out people, even the side characters. We saw as Alice comes to realize that people have secrets. Everyone does. And no one is just one story or one memory. People are made up by all of their parts and actions, not just the nice ones. She has a hard time accepting that people can be both good and bad, while simultaneously embodying that herself. This narrative and gradual epiphany was very well written and not just shoved in your face.

Overall, I really loved this book. It was definitely a high 4 stars for me. Maybe a 4.25 stars, if I were one to get that technical. An extremely solid debut for sure! I loved the setting of the book, as well, and in some ways the desert felt like its own character within the story. It certainly had a strong sense of atmosphere. I always enjoy a good horse book, and this was no exception, even if this one was not necessarily a happy horse book. It was very well done!

I don’t thin I’d want to live in a barn like that. The mice would be great, but just look at what happened to poor old Ham!

Thanks for reading!

Title: The God of Animals
Author: Aryn Kyle
Genre: Fiction| Fiction Literature | Young Adult | Coming of Age | Contemporary | Animals: Horses
Publication Date: March 20th 2007
Page Count: 305 pages
Buy It:Wordery Book Depository

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