Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Review: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for GirlsAuthor: Anton DiSclafani
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover

A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South.

It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.

I thought about the future weeks, when we would know and understand each other, and I was nearly lifted out of the saddle in anticipation. Sometimes anticipation affected me in this way, as if I could feel it coursing through my veins. I suppose it was a girlish habit.

There was no history of twins in our family. When we were born, our family was cautious, especially of me. I had either sapped Sam’s strength and was the stronger twin, or Sam had enfeebled me. I was either a selfish or useless girl. My father tried to dispel these notions, said there was no evidence. But even he was worried, a boy and a girl born together, contrary to the order of things.

I wanted to be alive. I wanted to live. I was not weak. And in order to do that, I would make a home here. I would make a home without my family.

“Be good,” she called from behind me, a phrase uttered so often it meant nothing.

At the age of fifteen, Thea Atwell is sent off to a summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina. However, readers do not find out why until the story starts to unravel. The camp is called Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and it is an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. The story is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is very close to my childhood home. The book is set in 1930 and the Great Depression is taking its effect on Thea’s family, but as she travels to the rural mountains of North Carolina readers will understand that something else has uprooted Thea’s family roots, something that Thea may have had a hand in. What did she do? Why did she deserve banishment to this remote summer school? You have to follow alongside Thea as she tells you her story to find out!

I would definitely call this a mature coming of age story. Most coming of age stories give us a younger character who is slightly immature and annoying at times, or at least make terrible decisions. While some of Thea’s decisions are terrible, she is still a mature character with a grasping voice and point of view. This book is written from her perspective and allows readers to dive into her life at the riding camp while slowly learning what happened that put Thea so far away from home. I enjoyed the flashbacks/look into Thea’s family and past and I felt that it was better experienced this way instead of if it were happening right in front of my eyes.

This book deals with a lot of sexual tension, issues, and experiences. Most of them are of course Thea’s. Thea really learns a lot about herself while she is away at summer camp. She has time to reflect on what she did that hurt her family and got her sent there in the first place. This book is not to be taken lightly because of all the sexual undertones. This is a teenager’s first experience of freedom and coming alive. I enjoyed see Thea grow and learn how to control herself and best of all, follow her heart.

***A copy of this book was sent to me by the publishers at Riverhead Books in exchange for my honest review***

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