In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Monday, November 12, 2012

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

copyright date: October 2011
primarily marketed for: young adults (high school)

The books I love the most are the ones I find myself most compelled to write about.  I am woefully behind on posting about the books I’ve read this school year, yet here I am making time to share another incredible story. I find it is most difficult to share the books I love.  Something about my connection with a story like this makes it seem almost as if nobody else could possibly enjoy it as deeply as I have—surely it was tailor-made to fit my heart and stick to my ribs—how could anyone else find it as perfect a fit?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I sure hope you try this one on because part of me suspects it might fit you just right, too.

Since I closed the covers of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races early this morning, I have been haunted by the rhythm of the story.  The magic of sea still beats in my chest.  Puck’s connections—to Sean Kendrick (fellow racer), to Dove (her beloved horse), to the island of Thisby (her home), to the sea (both a danger and a comfort), to the capall uisce (the water horses that took her parents’ lives)—became my connections.  Connections to a world I didn’t want to leave. 

I had heard great things about this book since it came out over a year ago.  I had heard from reviewers, from booksellers, and most importantly from reader friends who I trust.  But nothing about the storyline interested me.  Mythical water horses?  A foreign, fictitious, Ireland-like setting?  An annual deadly competition? 

It wasn’t until I took a chance and was immediately enchanted with Stiefvater’s Shiver that I started to consider adding Scorpio Races to my list of ‘Someday’ books.  Soon after, the thrill of meeting Maggie Stiefvater in person was more than enough to secure its place on my list. 

True to her style, Stiefvater has created a strong female character who is not without her flaws.  Puck is fiercely independent, yet deeply emotionally attached to the men in her life.  She lives on the island of Thisby with her two older brothers since her parents were killed by bloodthirsty water horses while boating.  Upon receiving unbelievably bad news from her oldest brother, Puck feels cornered into signing up as a participant in the annual water horse race.  It is her only hope to turn her family’s situation around.

Puck’s story alternates with Sean Kendrick’s story at the beginning.  Sean works for the richest horse owner on the island and has won the races four out of the past six years.  He is the favorite, but is not without enemies.  As Puck and Sean’s stories unfold, they become increasingly, satisfyingly intertwined. 

In addition to crafting characters I couldn’t help but fall in love with, Stiefvater has created in The Scorpio Races lyrical descriptions of a world worth lingering in as a reader.  Where I would normally want to skip or skim through paragraphs of description, Stiefvater’s use of language is so arresting, so daring and unexpected that I wanted to slow down and savor the images she created.   I am not sure how she does it, but I am sure I want more.  I believe you will too.


  1. Perfect description of this book. If I hadn't already read it, I would make this my next book. I may have to reread it. When I finished The Scorpio Races I was so sad there wasn't another book coming along. It was the end of this world. I still find myself drawn to it. On the 1st I began thinking of the water horses, knowing they should be making their appearance. I thought of Puck and Sean. It's just such a magical book....

  2. I wish Maggie was writing more of this instead of Raven Boys. I too loved it, Christy. When I spoke with her a little bit when she was here in Denver, she said that the book was very special to her, more than the Mercy Falls, but of course she might just say that. I found it compelling, and more than war stuff & gore, compelling and wicked really. Those horses! This is based on some mythical stories in Ireland-whew! Thanks for reminding me again how great it is!

  3. This book is so great. Maggie Stiefvater is a true literary genius. I want to be her when I grow up. Make sure you read The Raven Boys also. So, so good.
    Highly recommended site for Day Trip Alaska Bear Viewing