#tbt: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani (Riverhead Books)

My first #tbt pick is actually not that far of a throw – more of a casual toss. It got great reviews when it was published in 2013, but chances are you missed it. Maybe it’s the title, because The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls doesn’t really roll off the tongue. Or maybe it’s because this is a book about a fifteen-year-old girl written for adults. It’s not something I normally would’ve picked up – horses aren’t really my jam. But a coworker at the bookstore where I worked recommended it, and there’s a blurb from Curtis Sittenfeld on the cover, so here we are.

It’s 1930, and in the wake of a family tragedy, Thea Atwell is sent away to an elite Southern boarding school called the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Thea, who spent most of her childhood in relative isolation on her family’s citrus farm in Florida, finds herself in a completely unfamiliar world structured by complex social hierarchies and allegiances.

We don’t know what happened that led to Thea’s exile, and that mystery drives the novel as her secret slowly unfolds. She’s coming to terms with her own role in the tragedy that unraveled her family, and as she confronts her past, she begins to see new possibilities for what her future might look like. It’s a coming-of-age story that explores feminine sexuality and the distance between desire and expectations. Thea is a complicated, nuanced heroine. She’s a little self-destructive, but I liked that.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was Anton DiSclafani’s first novel, and it’s beautifully written, plus it has the sex and scandal to keep the pages turning. Really, what more can you ask for?

There is definitely a right way to read this book, which is outside on a porch while the weather is still warm, so buy it at your local independent bookstore or online here.

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