ARC Book Review: Jumping Fences by Karen Wood

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‘I don’t want you mustering any more,’ Dad said. ‘You’re to knuckle down and do your schoolwork. If you stay here with me, you can keep things going in and around the house, while Mike and I run the farm. Those are my rules. Otherwise you can go and live at your mum’s.’

                Zoe reeled. There was clearly something she was missing. ‘What do you mean?’ she said.

 Zoe wakes up in hospital after a mustering accident and can’t remember a thing. When she gets home, everything has changed. Why are her boyfriend Scotty and bestie Caitlin not answering her messages? Who stole her dad’s cattle? What is her brother’s mysterious friend Josh hiding, and can he help save her dad from having to sell the farm?

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, and was not compensated for the review. All opinions are my own. Jumping Fences was released on the 2nd of January.

 I started reading JUMPING FENCES with relatively low expectations, to be perfectly honest. I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong by Karen Wood’s fantastic use of world-building, character and plot. When people think of “world-building,” they tend to think of fantasy novels: Harry Potter and Eragon and The Hunger Games. But it’s just as important in contemporary books like this one, and the rural setting was conveyed perfectly.

 Zoe was also a great protagonist. Extremely strong-willed, she doesn’t take crap from anyone, and is soon active again following her mustering accident. She’s stubborn and headstrong, but has a lot of heart. The thing I liked about Zoe was that she’s not a “strong female,” someone who has stereotypical male traits. She has strength while still maintaining a sense of femininity.

 The plot was another pleasant surprise. With JUMPING FENCES described as a “rural romance,” I expected the romance to be at the forefront of the novel. But the mystery of the cattle, and what happened the day of the mustering accident, are questions that shape the novel’s path. The romance wasn’t forced at all, and I was relieved to find that there was no love triangle, which I’d been dreading. Instead, it’s a sweet, friendly romance that took both Zoe and me by surprise.

 It’s a book of many things: saving the farm, betrayal, mystery, divorce, family, missing cattle and – my favourite – dog high jump, which I think there should be a cat version of (though my cats would probably be too lazy to do anything much).

 Four stars out of five, and I’d recommend it for teen readers of romance and contemporary, or just after an escape from city settings. It’s definitely different from books I usually read, and I’d welcome the opportunity to read more from Karen Wood.

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