Friday, June 28, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

I borrowed the hardback from my local public library.

My review:

Fifteen-year-old Theadora is humiliated, outraged, and angry when her family packs her off to a girls' camp/school in North Carolina in the summer of 1930. After a sheltered life in rural Florida, Thea is plunged into culture shock when she must live in a cabin and take all of her classes, riding lessons, and meals with other privileged girls.

While Thea is 15/16 in the book, Yonahlossee is not a young-adult book. It falls into the category somewhat pretentiously known as "coming-of-age novels," but it captures the transition from childhood to the world of adulthood much more succinctly and compellingly than many works that are thus described.

The writing is excellent, the setting drawn in gorgeous detail, and the narrative device of flipping back and forth in time before and after "the incident" builds the tension perfectly. While the Act that got Thea sent away from home will not take much deducing, it is clear that there is more to the story. The need to know the whole truth intensifies as the book progresses. The progressive revelations about the past are neatly paired with developments in Thea's present at camp, illuminating her reasons for acting as she did in each situation and highlighting her development into a woman.

Recommended for adult female readers looking for a little depth along with the scandal in their summer reading. 

Stars: 5

It was easy for me to relate to Thea; I, too, grew up in a very isolated home and spent no meaningful time with boys outside my family. I spent hours and hours at the barn and on horseback when I was a young teen. I also went to Girl Scout camp faithfully (often horse camp) and worked at one for an entire summer. The transition to communal living and learning with other students was a shock when I went to college. So the external circumstances were ones that I understood better than the average reader may.

While Thea's drives will garner a lot of head nods from women remembering their own teen years, the way she handles them will raise a lot of eyebrows. Her choices are often scandalous, but what I found most unsettling was how she ultimately makes peace with the consequences. It's a book that doesn't quite let you go when you put it down.

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