Review Blog

Jan 06 2016

The reluctant jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781925266061
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Horses, Riding school, Twins, Romance, Mystery. Hearing Harper fall over her skateboard with a sickening crack, Heidi knows that all her dreams have fallen apart. Due to go to jillaroo school the very next day, Harper is in surgery and together the girls plot for Heidi to take her place at the school out west. It is Hayley's chance to excel and gain points towards a scholarship to the prestigious agriculture college at Tamworth, her dream school, so they switch. As twins no one will notice, but Heidi is a surfer, not a rider, so disaster looms for Heidi as she gets off the bus and spies her surroundings at Winmaroo.
She has ridden before but is certainly not as proficient as her sister so she is relieved when given a quiet horse for the ten days.
But onto the scene comes Trent a school friend of Hayley's and with Chaz being very protective and Vee asking questions she is not sure she can pull it off.
And that is before they begin the course.
And with the constant patter of tiny feet along the rafters, and the green python wrapped around the beams, not to mention the possibility of snakes, Heidi's first night is one of trepidation.
It is clear form the start that Vee is hiding something, she seems diffident and unsure, but the two strike up a friendship. Trent on the other hand questions Hayley and she is on her guard, especially after ringing her sister and finding out that he is he biggest rival and she didn't know he would be there.
And Chaz, well Chaz is a person of interest, a handsome intriguing young man who seems to like her.
A gently funny story about sticking up for your sister, of getting yourself into a perilous situation without thought for you own safety but only caring that your sister gets her dream school, this novel has broad appeal. Heidi is determined but full of questions, dogged but unsure, watchful and anxious.
We are looking over her shoulder as she learns the skills of the jillaroo trade, milking the cows, fencing, drafting, drenching, line dancing, and everything to do with horse care and riding.
When more things are stolen, one of the girls, Vee, is suspected and removed from the camp. But Heidi is not convinced that she is the thief and sets a trap to find the real one. Her investigations and the final exposing of her real identity brings the story to an exciting and unexpected conclusion.
An involving and easily absorbed story about life on a station, peppered with romance and mystery, but also very funny episodes, not least of which are because the twins have swapped places, this will appeal to middle school readers, particularly girls.
Fran Knight

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