Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani


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 equestrian 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 far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea once shared with her twin brother on their family's citrus farm-a world that is now lost.
As she grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, and what they will mean in the grand scheme of her life and her relationship with her family, Thea also finds herself enmeshed in a new order at Yonahlossee.  Her eyes opened for the first time to a larger world, she must navigate the politics and competition of friendship as well as her own sexual awakening, and come to an understanding of the kind of person she is-or wants to be.  Her experience will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, and her country.

What I liked:  The mountain setting is as beautiful as Thea's look back at her life in Florida and her family stories.   I enjoyed learning more about the Depression from this unique viewpoint as a few of the wealthy young ladies were affected and were forced to leave the camp.  I enjoyed Thea's love of horses and riding. Disclafani's distinction of "bad girls" vs. "boys will be boys" was well played and reflects what still exists today all though probably not AS bad.  I enjoyed the twist of how her notion of what was originally meant to be punishment turns out to be her saving grace.

What I didn't like:  Thea was a tough character which made it hard to love her.  I can't say more without revealing important elements of the story that are best kept secret until you pick it up to read it. While she wasn't easy to like there was much to enjoy in this story.

A sample:

I slipped away to the barn one afternoon, when all the other girls were studying at the Hall.  Now instead of bird-watching, botany, and painting we had history, literature, and home economics; math and science didn't seem to exist in this mountain enclave.  We didn't have much homework, either, or nothing that took very much time.  I like literature, unsurprisingly, taught by bland Miss Brooks.  She became impassioned, though, when referring to books she loved, and watching her I sometimes thought, isn't that always the way?  A dull girl charmed by a book? (119)

Find her here Anton Disclafani's website and on twitter.

1 comment:

Tina's Blog said...

I really liked this one...I had an ARC that I actually got to before the book was published. You're right, Thea is a tough character to like.