The Damage Done by Linda Newbery

‘It’s like walking on a tightrope.  I keep taking steps, struggling to keep my balance, but I’ll always be wobbling and looking down to see how far I’ll fall.  And one day I will.’  So said the mysterious clay girl, and she could have been speaking for Kirsty too. There are things Kirsty ought to share, but who to tell her secret to when Dad’s too busy to listen, her friends aren’t interested and her brother Jay’s got a secret of his own?

Dally might do.  But how can Kirsty trust him when he’s angry so much of the time?  Besides, these are dangerous days for trusting people you don’t know.  There are horse-mutilators on the prowl, and the police on the hunt and it’s all very well Dally saying, ‘What you see is what you get,’ but he’s got secrets too, and Kirsty wants to believe the best in him, but how can she trust anyone these days?

This is a horsey book.  I have to come clean and admit I’m not a horsey person, which means I started out thinking this wouldn’t be for me.  But no sooner had Kirsty’s dad called her ‘Mouse’ than I found myself routing for her.  This is the story of a girl who deserves better.  There are horses in this book that get more respect than that.  No wonder Kirsty’s retreated into a world of her own and anywhere outside it comes across as threatening.

This is not one of those books that you struggle to read.  Once you get stuck in, you’re in for the duration.  There’s a lovely sense of place and mood, which draws you in, and page follows page with incredible ease.  Will Dally be Kirsty’s rescuer?  Or will it be the other way round?  Will she end up with yet someone else to carry? How can one girl possibly meet so many people’s expectations?  And let’s not forget them – who is attacking those horses?

Linda writes sensitively about a young girl’s struggles, hopes and disappointments with real clarity of voice.  She made me care about her heroine.  She made me care about the mysterious and not altogether likeable Dally.  She even made me care about Kirsty’s horse.  I kid you not. Leo’s a terrific horse. If I were a teenage girl I wouldn’t mind having him as my special friend. I recommend this book to horse-lovers and others alike.  It’s a really good read.

Reviewed by Pauline Fisk

Available in Kindle format

Find out more about Linda Newbery