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Another Kind of Cowboy, by Susan Juby

Another Kind of CowboyTwo teenagers – a closeted gay boy and a poor little rich girl – form a prickly friendship after they meet at dressage lessons.

The premise was promising, and I was interested in the Nanaimo, British Columbia setting, but this book doesn’t even rise to the level of competence. Juby definitely knows her stuff when it comes to horses, and does all right except when she has to tackle human emotions; some of the passages have all the subtlety of an anvil.

As Alex tacked up Detroit… he was confused and dismayed by his growing feelings for his friend. What could have been simple admiration for Chris’s talent was amplified because Chris seemed interested.

Sometimes fourteen-year-old Maggie and May, with their shiny eyes and glossy brown hair, reminded Alex of otters. Their relentless playfulness had the effect of raising his spirits, no matter what else he was fretting about.

There are cardboard villains, cardboard plots, cardboard themes. (Guess what? Drugs are bad!) It’s a book that never seems to try to go beyond the obvious, the surface, the stereotypical.