“Why is that new girl on our new horse?” Norrie asks her best friend, Hazel, as the two arrive at Edgewood Stables, where they ride and help out around the barn along with their friend, Sam. It turns out that the new girl is Vic, who used to ride at tony Waverly Stables. The four preteens form the heart of the wonderful ensemble cast in graphic novelist Faith Erin Hicks’ Ride On, a lively tale of horses and friendship.
Vic has begun riding at Edgewood after falling out with her best friend at Waverly, and she and Norrie get off to a dramatically rocky start. Passionate Norrie reacts to the newcomer with a short fuse, declaring that Waverly is Edgewood’s rival (an opinion that no one else, particularly shy, reserved Hazel, seems to share). Vic, meanwhile, tells Norrie she’s not looking to make friends at Edgewood; she just wants to be left alone to ride.
The story of Vic and Norrie’s relationship includes twists, turns and plenty of emotional fireworks that feel immediate and authentic. Hicks captures the angst and confusion that so often characterize the early teen years as interests change and friendships blossom and wane.
Hicks’ sharp, focused illustrations enliven character interactions by zeroing in on facial expressions, especially Norrie’s cavalcade of wide-eyed, accusatory looks as she feels increasingly threatened by Vic. Onomatopoeia punctuates various scenes, such as a large, bright yellow “FWUMP!” when Vic falls onto her bed in frustration. Hicks skillfully uses color to spotlight characters within panels: Vic’s blue-tinged braids, Norrie’s pink polo shirt and Sam’s blue and gray hoodie all stand out against the browns and blacks of Edgewood Stables and its horses.
Of course, those horses are also at the center of the story. Ride On contains plenty of riding action informed by Hicks’ childhood as a “horse girl,” as she explains in an author’s note. Hicks movingly conveys the love between riders and horses, as well as the nerves and challenges experienced by both during competitions.
Ride On will leave readers eager for more of Hicks’ animated tales and ready to jump in the saddle themselves.