Author: Anton DiSclafani
Publication Year: 2013Setting: Florida and North Carolina
Publisher: Penguin / Riverhead Books
Edition: eGalley and audio
Source: Edelweiss - publisher
Date Completed: July - 2013
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a coming of age story set in the 1930s Depression era, but unlike most coming-of-age stories set in this time period, the main character is rich. Fifteen- year old Thea Atwell and her twin brother Sam have grown up in a sheltered and privileged environment among the orange groves in Florida. Her father is a doctor, her mother, the beautiful doctor's wife who likes to spend her time gardening, Thea rides horses and brother Sam loves to explore the woods and commune with nature. For Thea, her brother Georgie and cousin Sam are pretty much her only exposure to other kids her age.
Early on it is clear something has happened involving Thea. Without notice her parents send her away to an equestrienne camp for Southern debutantes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. When Thea realizes that the "camp" is also a boarding school, she is puzzled and angry about her parent's decision. While she does make friends with some of the girls, and becomes very friendly with the headmaster and his family, life is quite different for her there. While her family is still very wealthy, other rich kids have seen their families lose everything and must leave the camp. Time away from family allows Thea the opportunity to reflect on events leading up to her being sent away from her family.
The story weaves back and forth from Thea's life at home in Florida and the months before she was sent away, to the one year she spent at the riding camp/boarding school. At the heart of the story is the question that readers will want answers to - "why was Thea sent away?" Readers will get the answer to that question, but for me it happened just a little to early into the story. I would have preferred if it had evolved more like a good mystery, but it is still a good story. Definitely a character-driven novel, for me, there was a feeling of tension throughout. It was also a book that really had so many elements that I like reading about: a story of social class, a family drama, young love and coming of age. All which takes place in a time when so many people have lost everything, yet for the family at the center of this story, all they had to worry about was minimizing the potential of public humiliation.
Told in the first person from Thea's POV, I thought Thea made for an interesting character. I liked how headstrong she was for a young girl considering how sheltered she was. I enjoyed how she grew and evolved throughout the story. I thought this book was a good read, and would make a good book club selection as well. Anton DiSclafani, is a debut author that I hope to read more of in the future.