The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

In 1930, as the Great Depression sets in, 15-year-old Thea Atwell is sent away from her secluded Florida home after a family tragedy that leaves her estranged from her parents and twin brother. The title of Anton DiSclafani's debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, reveals her destination.

DiSclafani's lush descriptions evoke the rich, unspoiled acres of Thea's Florida home, contrasting it sharply with the spare, beautiful setting of Yonahlossee, a camp-cum-boarding-school in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thea's narrative voice is compelling; she may be naive and sheltered, but she is far from innocent. Although she accepts some responsibility for the scandal that shattered her world (the details of which are gradually revealed to the reader), she also begins to question the wisdom of her parents and teachers--as well as the norms of a society that limits the power of women to direct their own lives. Headstrong and impulsive, Thea gains a new sense of the impact of her actions on others, though this wisdom does not stop her from relentlessly pursuing what she wants.

At Yonahlossee, Thea earns distinction in her riding lessons while making sharp, incisive observations about her fellow campers and their artificial world of Southern gentility. Despite her efforts to keep her distance from others, Thea eventually must leave Yonahlossee and face both her family and the prospect of a life in the wider world. DiSclafani's debut is a vividly written, heartbreaking story of one girl's struggle to grow up. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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