Friday, January 31, 2014

Victory Book Club: The Yonahlossee Riding Club by Anton DiSclafani, 2013

I won’t lie; I picked this novel up at the library because of the cover. I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, right? How could I pass up a book when the first words I see in the flap are “It is 1930” with a photo of a girl in riding boots smoking a cigarette?
Theodora Atwell is 15 and being sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Previously, Thea had lived a secluded life in central Florida with her mother, father and twin brother Sam. Their secluded life kept them away from feeling the struggles of the depression unless they were in town shopping or enjoying the occasional visit from her aunt, uncle and Cousin Georgie.
Assigned to Augusta House, for the first time Thea is living in close quarters with 5 roommates from different parts of the country and walks of life. In their all white uniforms, the girls at the riding camp are generally from wealthy families with the exception of the occasional girl on scholarship. Aside from Mr. Holmes, the headmaster, and a few other men working the camp, the girls rarely see boys except for their yearly dance.
Thea’s adjustment to camp life is told alongside the story of her past that led her to be sent away to the equestrian boarding school. Thea’s story is more complex than a simple coming of age story who loves riding horses. She holds a secret that is slowly revealed along with her own character flaws. Whatever her parents may have tried to shelter her from in their secluded home managed to reach their daughter, transforming her from girl to woman.
This book is unexpectedly sexy, which caught me a bit off guard, especially since I did not read the entire dust jacket. Be prepared to dislike many of the characters; this is not a heartfelt coming of age story. I’m not sure if there is even a moral learned at the end. While I did enjoy reading it, I had trouble connecting with any of the characters. I found myself thinking something was wrong with many of them, but this might just be part of the darkness that comes along with the story.

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