ARC Review: Rafferty Lincoln Loves… by Emily Williams *HIGHLY RECOMMENDED*

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A sensational and compelling, coming of age story for older YA readers.

Rafferty Lincoln doesn’t like horses. Not one bit. But when the popular high school girl of his dreams, Liberty Ashburn pulls him into a world of lead ropes and horse brushes, who is he to say no?

Except this isn’t any old horse. This is the missing racehorse, Profit’s Red Ridge. The horse Rafferty and three of his friends are hiding from the world. And Liberty Ashburn isn’t just any ordinary high school girl. How far will Rafferty go to win her over?

An intense, witty and powerful coming of age story with startling consequences.

***Actual rating: 5/5 Minty-is-BACK! Stars***

Had I not stepped forward in the boat to reach Dexter or even gone to the boat in the first place, would the outcome be different?

Rafferty Lincoln Loves… is probably one of the very few books that actually touches me so deeply not only because of the overall storyline but because of the shocking resemblance to my personal experience. To begin with, the book is about 4 high school students and 1 missing racehorse. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer is…everything. One interesting fact about these 4 students: they all belonged to different leagues/groups/or whatever you want to name it in school and they also had their own crosses to carry. Rafferty Lincoln was pretty much a sporty, quite-good-looking guy who not-so-secretly had a crush on Liberty Ashburn, the Queen Bee at school. Wilbur “Will” Ashburn was unfortunately luckily the younger brother of Liberty and he was also the softie in the pack. As for Dexter Forrest, oh, poor Dexter, he was often considered a slightly smelly and filthy weirdo by other classmates but had the biggest heart I’d ever seen in anyone.

When Rafferty, Dexter, Will and Liberty accidentally found a mysterious racehorse, Minty, they swore to one another that this pack would remain a secret no matter what, especially at school. Well, they all agreed unanimously partly because they wanted to protect this precious racehorse from the public/press (since the owner of the said missing racehorse was looking for him) and partly because Liberty had her little reputation to maintain. She couldn’t bare the humiliation of being seen with any of those guys. *UGH, I HATED HER THE MOST.*

Hence, whenever Rafferty seized the chance to “impress” Liberty, he always ended up embarrassing himself.

We shook together and then released our hands up high in the air at the rising sun. I tried to linger my hand on top of Liberty’s as we all separated, but ended up clunking my fingers into her. She pulled her hand away rubbing hard, and glare at me.
Not what I’d had in mind.

As perseverant and determined as he was, he never stopped paying Liberty extra attention until one tiny, meaningless rumor ruined the romantic move and everything went downhill.

If starting your own rumour for people to twist and turn into their own story was bad enough, what Liberty did was worse. She not only started her own rumour but left it so open to interpretation that the whole school joined in with mocking me.

And this was when I resonated with Rafferty the most in the entire book. In fact, what Rafferty had to deal with—the consequences of those rumors and betrayal from friends—and the intimidation of what Liberty was capable of, triggered some of my most unpleasant memories from the elementary school so much that I had to put down the book for a minute before plucking up my courage to continue reading it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the story a lot. Truth is, the author’s writing skill was so good that she captured all the intricate details from the characters’ experiences as if she was the one living through all of them, and such splendid writing style could easily evoke raw emotions from the readers. Therefore, I was completely in shock and unprepared for the sudden recollection of that specific period—when I was in pretty much the same situation as Rafferty’s—of my childhood.

’I even caught Nigel trying to scratch the sentence on my locker,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘He looked completely guilty for a second then just laughed at me and said he was following the crowd. Peer pressure. He made a ‘baa’ noise and ran off. Even my own friends are joining in, how can I compete against that?’

See, even Rafferty’s best friend turned his back on him instead of standing up for him like what a friend’s supposed to do under such circumstances. Looking on the bright side, Rafferty got to learn more about Dexter, whom later changed Rafferty’s life forever, thanks to all the drama at school.

Yes, children are incredibly brutal creatures. Thoughtless and careless with how they treat others. The bullies all have their own stories as to why they do what they do, but you, Dexter, you always remained yourself until the end.

Little did I expect that Dexter’s role in the story was actually the most crucial and worthy of anticipating. He was one of those high school students who always lingered on the margins of social hierarchy, got beaten by the bullies just for fun and had irresponsible parents treating him as their personal punch bag. In spite of his adversity, he was still the most loyal friend you could only dream of and also the kid who secretly learnt so much more about horses than what the school had taught. The bond between Dexter and Minty was incredibly magical and adding a horse to the modern world-building was just a cherry on top.

Aside from the precious friendship between Rafferty and Dexter or Dexter and Minty, there was also an adorable romantic relationship between Rafferty and Tallie, a cute college student working in the high school library. Thanks AGAIN to Liberty’s little retaliation, Rafferty found himself a lovely girlfriend and I couldn’t ship them enough!

’I’ve a sister, too,’ I volunteered, finally. ‘She’s nine.’
‘Does she like horses?’
‘She does indeed.’
‘Would she like to come and meet mine?’
‘I’m sure she’d love to.’
‘Then we can leave them to the horse talk and think of something else, less forbidden, to talk about.’
‘I’ll let you decide the subject.’
‘I hoped you would think of something.’
‘I’ll try,’ I promised. ‘I’ll bring a DVD just in case I can’t.’
‘Good plan,’ she laughed. ‘And pizza?’
‘Meat feast? And garlic bread?’
‘You’re on.’

What can I say? I just adored their naturally awkward interactions. *wink* Although Tallie’s company wasn’t exactly welcomed by the rest of the pack, she played an indispensable role as the catalyst in the story and in my opinion, made the ending tragically beautiful. If it weren’t for her, Rafferty wouldn’t have cared about Dexter so much that he truly put himself in his—or anybody else’s for that matter—shoes for the first time.

I only wish we, your friends, could have done that for you. Have fought for you. But we didn’t, and we didn’t even think to. Most shockingly of all, it didn’t even cross our narrow, self-centered minds.

To sum up, Rafferty Lincoln Loves… was a memorable read for me and I had an amazing reading experience with it. This book touched upon several social issues such as bullying, domestic violence and unhappy marriage but at the same time, it wasn’t all that humorless or pensive. Minty the racehorse had definitely brought these characters together and made them reconsider lots of things they used to take for granted. Plus, for someone who’d never seen a real horse in person, Minty was undoubtedly an eye-opener. I mean, who knew there were more than one kind of grooming brushes for a horse? Thus, I HIGHLY RECOMMENDED this book to everyone because it will stay with you for a long, long time for sure! Perhaps you’d view your life differently after reading it like I did.

Before you go, here’s a song I think would be perfect for two of my most favorite characters in this book and the lyrics say it all…

 

For Dexter & Minty, thank you both for making the world a better place by being who you are.

For I am, deservedly, not going to rest very well ever again.

***Huge thanks to the author for kindly letting me read and review the ARC of the book.***

 

Thanks so much for reading! Rafferty Lincoln Loves… will be released on February 14th, 2018 so it’s less than a week from now on! I really hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did! ❤

Until next time,

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