Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby
I probably would have ranked this book as a 2, but the author did an excellent job with the horse elements, so it earns an extra half star. Otherwise I found the novel mediocre overall, mostly due to Cleo's involvement. If the story had focused solely on Alex and been from his perspective, it would have been better.
What I liked
Alex. Perhaps the sweetest boy you've ever met. Okay, he's embarrassed by his family, but who wouldn't be? He's hardworking, quiet, tries not to complain and struggles with his place in the world. He doesn't fit in in so many ways, but he does his best to get by.
Equestrian. Most people get their horse stuff wrong in books, but this author, with her obvious horse experience, gets stuff right. It was wonderfully refreshing for a fellow equestrian. I'm not sure I buy the musical kur, which seems a bit advanced for two teens, but I suppose they are advanced riders.
Dressage Coaches. I enjoyed the two male dressage coaches. Their mixed personalities were funny and tender at all the right moments.
What didn't work
Cleo. She was annoying, self-centered, complaining all the time and lazy. If she was there to be a comparison to Alex, it didn't work. Even if she "brought Alex out of his shell" a little, I could not see them being friends. She annoyed me to the extremes. I tended to skim her chapters. Since she was half the book, it did serious damage to the quality.