Recently I read a great novel that was (almost entirely) one big race and it got me thinking about all that goes into preparing for races (especially considering as I have never participated in one myself!): the personal and external stakes of these types of competitions, the mental toughness that it takes to actually do the thing, and how a race can change characters. (For a slightly younger take on this subject, I highly recommend Jason Reynolds’s Track series!) So I started brainstorming, and I came up with four YA books about races in various forms — boat racing, running, horse races, and more!
In the Same Boat by Holly Green
Competing in the Texas River Odyssey is in Sadie’s blood — three generations of her family have done so, and she intends to be the latest member. But when a misstep takes her out of the race her first year, Sadie burns for redemption. On the eve of her second chance, her partner drops out unexpectedly, and Sadie makes the bold (or reckless?) decision to partner with her former friend turned rival Cully in order to stay in the competition. But as they battle long hours on the river, poisonous snakes, fatigue, alligators, and their own complicated history, Sadie must come to terms with what winning the race really means to her.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Set on a fictional island where each November deadly horses gallop from the sea onto land, this novel is about an annual horse race that will change everything for two young people. Sean is a skilled racer and this year he intends to win. Puck doesn’t have much to her name, but when a twist of fate has her entering the race, the two find themselves unexpected competitors…and soon perhaps something more. But there can only be one winner, and the Scorpio Races are often deadly. The outcome will change everything for Sean and Puck.
Tracked by Jenny Martin
Set in a futuristic sci-fi world called Castra, this book follows Phee, whose father was a rally racer that disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Rally racing is a big-time sport in Castra, where corporations control all, but when Phee attracts the attention of a major corporation, she is distrustful. Blackmailed into racing for them, Phee resents them even more. But between a growing attraction to her teammate and uncovering evidence that this corporation has its hands in far more than just business and racing, Phee finds herself caught in an impossible situation.
Fierce as the Wind by Tara Wilson Redd
Miho is a teen from Oahu who is devastated when her boyfriend breaks up with her, and she feels herself descending into an angry funk. As she tries to distract herself, she gets an idea to compete in a triathlon. She’s a greater swimmer and biker, but she’s never run a mile before, so the training will be brutal. But once Miho is committed, she finds herself rising to the challenges before her, discovering the extent of her own resilience.
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