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Trish Dulka
Chances Are
Trish Dulka, author
Gennie Harrison was raised on the backstretch of a racetrack. After her mom leaves her and her jockey father, Gennie drops out of school to work full-time at the track. Surrounded by those who love her--her dad, her cousin, her boss, her boyfriend--life is good. But one day, everything changes. Gennie has to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life. What are the chances she'll make the right one?
Dulka debuts with an entertaining coming-of-age story following Gennie, a 16-year-old who’s grown up on the racetracks and has a dream to work with horses as an adult—just like her father. Just as Gennie plans to drop out of her senior year of high school to pursue her dream full time, tragedy strikes, and her father suffers a fatal accident on the track, leaving Gennie at the mercy of her estranged mother, who swoops in for a second chance in the midst of Gennie’s disaster. When she agrees to enroll in the private school her mother’s bent on paying for, Gennie embarks on what she thinks will be an escape, but she ends up forced to choose between opportunities she’d never expected and a future she’d never previously questioned.

The insider peek behind the scenes of the horse racing world is intriguing, especially insights into care and training, and observations like “even if you lose the first eight races, there is always the hope that the ninth will be your lucky race.” Gennie’s dilemma, meanwhile, will resonate with readers who have faced tragedy and upheaval. With new friends, a new boyfriend, and a new perspective on her life, Gennie has to decide between the future she thought she wanted and the future that’s suddenly opened up to her, giving readers tremendous opportunity for deep emotions alongside Gennie as she learns, grows, and blossoms.

The prose is mostly clear and inviting, though Dulka occasionally describes scenes in terms of camera angles and cinematic framing (“Our camera zooms out from her content smile, revealing the cluttered rec room…”), which works well in some opening chapters, as Dulka specifically contrasts the reality of horses with how they appear in movies. Later, though, it’s not as clearly motivated and somewhat jarring. The romance itself is sweet, and Gennie is a likable character who experiences very real, life-changing tragedy that will spark compassion in readers and inspire them to persevere no matter the circumstances.

Takeaway: Sweet YA slice-of-life in the world of horse racing.

Comparable Titles: Kate Marchant’s Float, Joanna Campbell’s A Horse Called Wonder.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-