Monday, December 3, 2012

Riding Invisible

Riding Invisible
Sandra Alonzo, illustrated by Nathan Huang
ISBN: 978-1423118985
Hyperion, 2010

Plot Summary: Fifteen-year-old Yancy lives with a dysfunctional family but he’s pretty used to it. His older brother, Will, suffers from a cognitive behavioral disorder—his neurotransmitters are all messed up. Basically, to Yancy, this means Will is a monster. Yancy’s gotten used to not even reporting Will’s behavior because his parents are in denial of Will’s severe anger issues—thinking an award chart and stickers and family meetings to talk about emotions and feelings will fix everything. Yancy’s had enough however when Will cuts off the tail of his horse, Shy, and then threatens to do more. When the next encounter results in a physical cut on Shy, Yancy doesn’t bother to report the cruel act of violence to his parents but instead packs up his belongings and leaves the house on horseback. Fifty miles later in Palmdale, he meets Tavo who works at a fancy equestrian stable and the two become close friends. When the stable owner’s rich daughter gets caught kissing Yancy, the owner calls his parents and he’s forced to go home. Feeling brave from his experience, he turns to Christi, the girl in his art class he has a crush on, and discovers that her father was abusive to her just like Will is to him and they bond over this understanding. As Will’s threats to poison or slaughter Shy get stronger, Will’s parents are faced the future and what is better for the family and not just what is best for Will as they must get him the psychological help he needs that they can’t provide.

Critical Evaluation: This novel is written in diary style with lots of illustrations and free verse poetry sprinkled throughout. This story shows that an “illustrated” novel can be series and not just humorous. The story is about a young boy who lives in fear of his increasingly disturbed brother and how tough decisions must be made. Will is the type of character who does “bad” things and gets away with them by charming the people in charge. However, Yancy running away was the final straw that made his family see that rewarding Will with happy face stickers and stars when he does something “good” isn’t really helping his deeply disturbing psychological problems. It’s a pretty straightforward story of a troubled family that lives in fear of one of its own members. 

Reader's Annotation:  Yancy has to deal with an emotionally disturbed younger brother who threatens to kill Yancy’s prize horse. When his parents refuse to acknowledge the problem, Yancy runs away to save his horse and himself.

Author Information: 

Sandra Alonzo grew up in a mountainous region near Los Angeles with two younger brothers. As a child and teen she loved exploring the local trails on horseback, reading, and experimenting with photography. Alonzo, her three small dogs, and her horse currently reside in central California not far from the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Alonzo is the author of Gallop-O-Gallop, a poetry collection/picture book about horses. Riding Invisible, with graphics by Nathan Huang, is her first novel for young adults (Amazon, n.d.).

*Note: Barely any information is to be found on the author. Her website (which is hard to find as the first result that comes up is in a foreign language) does not include a biography section. The same can be said about Nathan Huang—his website features his art but does not give a biography.

Genre: Realistic

Curriculum Ties: Disturbed and mentally ill people, family dynamics

Booktalking Ideas:  Talk about illustrated novels

Reading Level/Interest Age:  12+

Challenge Issues: Minor language, violence, animal cruelty

Challenge Defense:  If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:

·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
·        A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
·        Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
·        Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
·        Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at

Reason for Inclusion:  A realistic plot done in a unique way through an illustrated diary format.


Amazon. (n.d.). Sandra Alonzo. Retrieved from

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