Another Kind of Cowboy.
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
Unlike Juby’s humorous Alice trilogy, Another Kind of Cowboy, though it has its funny moments, is thematically much more serious. Since childhood, the novel’s central characters, Alex Ford of Cedar, B.C., and Californian Cleo O’Shea, have adored horses, with Alex, as a youngster, pretending his bicycle was a horse and Cleo collecting model horses while imagining herself to be a veterinarian rescuing damaged horses. Now 16, both teens have parent-related challenges. Alex’s macho, single parent father wants him to ride western, or cowboy, style and not the “sissy” dressage that Alex prefers, while Cleo’s wealthy movie industry parents continually substitute money for loving child rearing. When attention-starved Cleo naively contributes to the family’s home being robbed, her parents’ response is to exile her to Stoneleigh Girls’ Equestrian Academy on Vancouver Island, where she meets Alex during private dressage lessons. Divided into three parts whose titles are cleverly derived from the stages of dressage training and which correspond to character growth in Alex and Cleo, the book utilizes date-labelled chapters that begin on September 7 and conclude on April 22. Each chapter is told from either Alex’s or Cleo’s perspective but not necessarily alternately. Alex also faces a problem bigger than his dressage participation, and that is keeping from his womanizing father the secret that he is gay. Meanwhile, Cleo falls in with the school’s delinquent partying crowd, thereby creating new difficulties for herself. Juby creates a strong cast of secondary characters and provides a most believable conclusion to the novel. Highly recommended.