Coming-of-age is hard in any place, at any time, but in the Topanga Canyon of Kate Milliken’s debut novel...it’s a volatile concatenation of class, beauty, vulnerability and desire ... Milliken beautifully portrays this combustible social biome among the live oak, eucalyptus and chaparral lining nearby hillsides ... Milliken trusts us to keep up with her fast-paced tale, catching clues on the fly as we careen through the intricate story lines. But she’s at her best when she lingers, treating us to deft insights and gorgeous, sensual description, especially of the natural world and the esoteric practices of horse breeding and competitive riding ... Kept Animals is an event-packed novel of class, desire, coming-of-age and familial disintegration. It’s also a knowing depiction of an unstable world where residents can be as treacherous as the landscape.
Milliken’s debut is a surprisingly suspenseful coming-of-age novel starring an earnest young woman who loves horses and, maybe, girls ... While the plot is swift-moving and engaging, it is occasionally overstuffed and secondary characters could be better developed. Still, Rory is a lovely companion, and readers will enjoy following her through her trials and tribulations.
...moving ... Changing perspective throughout, Milliken excels at capturing each character’s unique voice and perspective—particularly Rory’s guarded quietness and Vivian’s performed jadedness. Her attention to details of place and time, as well as the casual cruelties those of privilege can inflict on those who have less, provide astute undercurrents to the propulsive plot. Milliken’s electric tale keenly documents the power of first love and the lingering hurt of trauma.