Review: Kept Animals by Kate Milliken

kept animals kate millikenRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, F/F

It’s 1993, and Rory Ramos works as a ranch hand at the stable her stepfather manages in Topanga Canyon, California, a dry, dusty place reliant on horses and hierarchies. There she rides for the rich clientele, including twins June and Wade Fisk. While Rory draws the interest of out-and-proud June, she’s more intrigued by Vivian Price, the beautiful girl with the movie-star father who lives down the hill. Rory keeps largely separate from the likes of the Prices—but, perched on her bedroom windowsill, Rory steals glimpses of Vivian swimming in her pool nearly every night.

After Rory’s stepfather is involved in a tragic car accident, the lives of Rory, June, and Vivian become inextricably bound together. Rory discovers photography, begins riding more competitively, and grows closer to gorgeous, mercurial Vivian, but despite her newfound sense of self, disaster lurks all around her: in the parched landscape, in her unruly desires, in her stepfather’s wrecked body and guilty conscience.One night, as the relationships among these teenagers come to a head, a forest fire tears through the canyon, and Rory’s life is changed forever.

This is such a wonderful book, so warm and heartbreaking, that feels like the only Sapphic coming-of-age story you’ll ever need. Kept Animals has one of the most realistic portrayals of relationships and people that I’ve seen in a while, the flaws, misunderstandings, missed opportunites, momenents of sensitivity and vulnerability.

My heart broke for so many characters. You can feel the tension growing, and the mystery that keeps you turning pages, as you get glimpses of the fate of some of them, over twenty years later. Despite the fact that this is a rather sad read, it’s not always bleak, I found it quite heartwarming and nostalgic. There is something just instantly classic about it and thinking about it now, months later, I remember it tenderly.

I really enjoyed Kept Animals, although I think listening to the audiobook didn’t do it much favor – it was done well (except for the Spanish-speaking parts), but I would’ve liked to read it in paper instead. I also think someone who loves horses will find this a perfect read! I am not a horse girl myself, but it was such a nice and authentic part – you could really tell that this is where the heart of the book is.

One thought on “Review: Kept Animals by Kate Milliken

  1. Pingback: eARC Review: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore | Naty's Bookshelf

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