[ARC Review] The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

Monday, June 17, 2013

Title: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Author: Anton DiSclafani
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Source: ARC received by publisher for honest review

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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 am not one to gravitate towards adult novels, but there are certain ones that pull me in, and The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was one of them. I received my review copy at the Penguin Canada Spring/Summer preview event, and it was one of the only piles of arcs that were not touched. I picked up the book, read the back and decided that I would give it a try. And I am so glad that I did, because I would have missed a breathtakingly beautiful novel.

Although the protagonist in this novel is only fifteen, this is far from a novel a fisteen year old girl should be reading. Set in the heart of The Great Depression, this story is heartbreaking and painful to read at times. It made me wonder if I could have survived during that time in history, and it made me wonder how our protaginist, Thea, did survive. She was sent to the Camp because of a unmentionable incident that happened earlier on in the year, and it threatened not only Theas repuation in society, but her families as well. This incident is hinted at throughout the novel, and I loved that the author reveal it to us through a series of small flashback that added so much tension to the story.

The best part of the novel was how true it was to its time period. Obviously I did not live through The Great Depression but I have family who did, and I thought the author did an amazing job at representing a very difficult time in history. I also loved that most of the confict came through the flashbacks, but also the letter correspondence  between Thea and her family, mainly her mother. This was the part that broke my heart the most because Thea just wanted approval from her parents that everything was going to be okay, and it was that lack of aprroval that lead her on a path that would shape the rst of her life.

During the progress of the novel we watch Thea grow up and make certain choices that are frowned upon by many, but they also made her into a different person. She grew up very fast at Yonahlosee and it was hard to read at times because she was only fifteen, yet after that year at the camp she seemed much too old. I really enjoyed this book, mostly for betrayal of a time period that was so foreign to my way of living and for making me invest in a character that, in the end, was not very likable. It was a great read. 

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