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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2013
"Southern decorum, family secrets ... DiSclafani is wildly talented and this is a sexy, suspenseful, gorgeously written book". After reading this quote on the back of the book The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls I was very much looking forward to reading this debut novel.

The book begins with the main character, Thea being taken by her father to the riding camp fro girls in the Blue Ridge Mountains from her home in Florida, her first time away from home, being sent away after an incident that had brought shame on her family, leaving her to cope with her feelings of guilt. The novel is set in the 1920's.

The story unravels slowly as we learn piece by piece the reason that Thea was sent away to the school. As time goes by and she begins to wonder if she ever wants to return home to her isolated existence she begins to mature and embarks on a risqué affair with the head teacher.
The plot was not very original and I felt that I always knew what was coming next. I was not sure wether the indented audience for the book was teenage girls or adults, to begin with it read more like a teenage novel but as the book progressed and the sex scenes began I was not really sure who the target audience was.

All in all it was a pleasant enough read, although I prefer a bit more suspense and to be kept guessing in the books that I read. It was very easy to follow, no confusing plot lines or in-depth descriptive prose. I would recommend it for a quick holiday read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2014
Thea Atwell is not easy to love. She is somewhat spoiled, lazy and seemingly insensitive towards others' needs and feelings. Her longing are not common for fifteen year-old girl, desires are forbidden, and passions are getting out of control very easily. Her parents know that, and because of that reason they will send her to a riding camp Yonahlossee, reserved exclusively for girls. In their view, this is done for Thea to learn behaving in the company of other girls and adults. But Thea thinks that being in Yonahlossee is punishment for the shame she had inflicted on family and the way how the parents got rid of her.

If the reader wants to be fair critic to this girl, we should think how difficult was to grow up in the American South, in the wake of the Great Depression, only a few years after women in the United States gained the right to vote, at a time when the girls were still only the daughters of their fathers. For Thea additional weight for growing up was the alienation of her family from the rest of the world, while her twin brother Sam and two years older brother George are the only boys in her world. And the first sexual curiosities and turning to desires into a young woman's body, directed to the first available person of the opposite sex.

It is this "sin" that leads her to Yonahlossee, equestrian camp and boarding school for girls – Thea’s new home in the most sensitive year of her life when she started growing up and maturing. There comes to the fore her love of horses, riding talent, but also a tendency towards forbidden, inaccessible or impossible, regardless of whether it is the question of the equestrian feats or unusual and forbidden relationship with twice elderly camp director, Mr. Holmes.

Although at first glance it does not seem so, with the passage of time Thea herself realizes that all of her battles and turmoil of life she emerged as victor because, although few time she disappointed her parents, at no time she did not disappoint herself. And that is the lesson that, as an adult, as a bit aged narrator, she is trying to share with readers of Thea Atwell story, a rebellious young girl on the threshold of girlhood whose transformation into a girl was accompanied by a seemingly strange, and for so young age too sensual experiences.

'The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls’ a debut novel by American author Anton DiSclafani, became one of the most anticipated novels in 2013 and this title was largely justified. The story of a girl growing up in an era when the very notion of the girlhood was starting to emerge in fine manner is interwoven with eroticism whose charge DiSclafani uses in the right way - subtle, unspoken, but very present homoerotic scenes evokes youthful doubts about her sexuality while in powerful and explosive scenes of heterosexual relationship brings back the memories of the strength of such experiences felt for the first time.

Properly arranged are the other elements that make growing up so complex process, such as the search for our own ego, relationships with other girls and realizing ourselves through these relationships, to some extent a competitive relationship with her mother and complex relationship with her father.

Although written for a younger audience, this novel will be joyfully, though in different ways, read by women in all stages of their life journey – for girls it will often serve as an answer to the question "whether my thoughts are normal", for mothers it will be helpful to better understand their daughters and for women who for left behind long ago the girl age will be beautiful reminder that will take them back vividly to that period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'I was fifteen years old when my parents sent me away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls'. The opening sentence gives a flavour of this coming of age story. Thea has done something bad and has been 'sent' to the camp in Carolina from Florida and her parents 'did not trust me enough to let me ride the train alone.' The novel is set in 1930 and in the depression, but Thea's family lead a life of privilege and have 'family money,' so can send their daughter to the sheltered equestrian boarding school. In the opening pages Thea narrates how little she knew about the depression and how her father's patients come to be unable to pay him even with garden produce as the depression worsens. I thought the contrast between the harsh realities of the outside world and the boarding school world was handled well by Anton DiSclafani - the school is "an island of rich girls in the middle of the poorest." DiSclafani uses the enclosed world to spotlight the role of women at the time - "I was a young woman when young women were powerless," says Thea and I thought that was one of the more interesting aspects of the novel. Unfortunately, the characters are ciphers with the exception of Thea and the slow reveal of her disgrace distances us from her. If you read boarding school novels when you were a girl - as I did - I suspect you'll have more time for this than many.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2014
Thea is a complicated, imperfect, totally screwed up character who still manages, at times, to be loving, brave and kind. Thea is very much a product of her circumstances, and she does the best she can with what she has. Most importantly, she survives, and she learns to accept herself for who she is. Sure, she makes some terrible choice , but this makes Thea an honest, if flawed, character, and that's something I can appreciate."

Set in the Depression era, I was initially drawn to this book because, of course, horses were involved. I love the relationship between girls and their horses and how that stays with them throughout their lives. I had mixed emotions about Thea and her behavior but I still cared about her.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Thea is fifteen when her parents send her away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in North Carolina. It is summer 1930, and it takes Thea some time to recognise that is Yonahlossee not a summer camp, and that she will not be returning home at the end of the summer. She has been sent to school as both a punishment for her actions and as a solution to the problems, to separate her from her twin brother.

This novel is not really as conventional a school story as might be expected – it is more of a coming of age novel. Thea is more interested in her riding than in her formal education, but when she is not with her horse, she is reflecting on what happened at home and the emotional fallout, and observing her classmates, most of whom come from wealthy Southern families. Everyone at Yonahlossee is very aware of class distinctions – some of them are from a kind of aristocracy in all but name, others are from families who have made their money in newer industries and business, and there is a lot of snobbery. At this time, the Great Depression era, some families are losing their money and girls will have to leave.

Lonely Thea soon starts to form new emotional attachments, but this will be as unsuitable and shocking as the events which led to her being sent away in the first place.

This novel is beautifully written and I was anxious to find out what Thea had done to be sent away, and how she would deal with her new environment.

This is an accomplished debut and I hope to read more by this writer.
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on 6 November 2013
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

I was pleased to receive a review copy of this book as I'm interested in period fiction, particularly unusual stories that have significant events as the backdrop, in this case, the 1930's financial crash (Depression) in America.

The story focuses on Thea Atwell, a young woman who has lived a very sheltered and privileged life with her twin brother and parents on a sumptuous plot of land, funded by citrus groves....and so immune to the financial crash. Not immune to destitution are her father's relations which is plotted throughout. A committed horse rider but naive she embarks on a ruinous but fleeting relationship with someone too close for the family's comfort. As a result she is swiftly packed off to the riding camp for girls, what can only be described as Mallory Towers for Southern Belles.

There she immerses herself in the politics of girl friendships and horse riding, trying to escape the legacy of her actions. Around her develop the stories of her fellow boarders, those that become too close to boys, those whose families a similarly ruined by the crash and more important, the lives of the headmaster/mistress and their children.

Thea it seems is a live cracker and destined to repeat past mistakes where her only redemption, and possible return to her family, is through the misguided kindness to friends similarly misbehaving.

The book is a rich, beautifully written, narrative of the nebulous, unreal and sheltered lives of these young women and though interesting, I felt very little empathy or affinity for the main protagonist. Described as racy, I felt these sections of the book were overplayed, uninteresting and added little to a story that unfortunately didn't grab me.
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on 27 August 2013
There was something about this book, right from the start that got me hooked. I couldn't tell you exactly what it was, but from the moment I picked it up, I wanted to keep reading.

The storyline itself is quite simple - Thea has been sent away to the riding camp by her parents. At first we don't know anything about the reasons why, only that Thea sees it as a punishment for something she has done. Whilst she gets to know the girls at the camp, Thea is able to enjoy herself surrounded by the riding that she loves so much. As the book progresses, we are given tantalising glimpses into Thea's home life with her parents and her twin brother, and her aunt and uncle and cousin. Slowly we are drip fed information which helps us build up a picture of not only the life Thea lived before the camp but the series of events which led up to her being sent away.

I absolutely loved the style of writing of the book and found the descriptions of the people, the relationships and even of the camp to be brilliantly evocative. Even though I'm not a horse rider myself, I found myself carried away by Thea on the back of Sasi, her horse. I too wanted to ride in the mountain encircled ring at the camp and join the girls in their escapades. Whilst the background story to Thea's arrival at the camp is not anything unusual, the slow and gradual reveal means that you become more and more enmeshed into Thea's world and slowly you can see what she has lost, and gained.

This is a book to read again and again and each time enjoy just as much. A fantastic book from this author and I will definitely be looking out for future books by him.
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on 25 August 2013
An unusual coming of age novel set in an expensive boarding school for girls during the depression. Read as a personal account of a pivotal year in a young girl's life the story line could be considered predictable. But there was far more to the book. It is a strong critical comment on how wealthy women were so limited and powerless at the time of the depression. Sheltered by the mountains surrounding the school the girl's are shielded from outside events. Their "experience" of the financial melt down is the disappearance of their class mates because their families have lost their wealth and are unable to pay the fees. As Thea says the camp is a place to be witty and charming rather than clever. A lot of the book concerns the subtleties of position and the correct behaviour expected of ladies of their class.
The strongest theme of the book was the pain of change and upheaval for Thea but I saw this partly as a reflection of the pain and transformation the country was going through. Maybe I read too much into the setting of the book but I consider this to be a novel primarily about the depression through the eyes of a daughter from a wealthy family.
The style of writing was effectively used but I personally disliked it. I got used to it but I didn't like the moving forwards and backwards through time without warning.
The only other criticism I have is only Thea was a complex and fully-developed character. There were hints at the supporting characters complexities but they were all very thinly drawn.
Overall a bold, interesting and unusual book.
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on 11 May 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (what a gorgeous title for a book -- it drew me into the story straight away!) is set in the United States in the 1930s. When the actions of fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell result in a scandal at her home in Florida (details of the scandal unfold throughout the book), she is sent away to Yonahlossee; a North Carolina school where the focus is on equestrianism. Thea struggles with homesickness: she has hardly any contact with her family, beyond the occasional letter here and there. However, she settles into the school and is a great horsewoman. As you would expect from the title, the book includes a lot of detail about the equestrian sports in which the girls at the school participate which is enjoyable if, like myself, you grew up reading pony stories and/or riding.

The novel is very well-written and compelling to read. There is a current of suspense which is woven throughout and this made me eagerly turn the pages! I enjoyed this novel very much; the setting of the States during the Depression and the social mores of the time are well-depicted. The locations are also very atmospheric and the author captures the contrast between Thea's beautiful home on an estate in sunny Florida and the North Carolina location of the Yonahlossee school, with its bracing winter climate and temperate summer. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a book which is perfect for taking away on holiday with you; suspenseful, skillfully written and very enjoyable
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on 5 July 2013
A previous reviewer has compared this to a Virginia Andrews novel and I can't say I disagree, but I've a bit of a soft spot for VA, as well as boarding school novels, the 1930s and "high society" tales and this one does have a literary touch (though it's not as classy as Curtis Sittenfeld's novels).
The mystery of why 15 year old Thea has been banished by her seemingly loving family and idyllic home to a debutante riding school in North Carolina full of spoiled rich girls kept me turning the pages; the theme of forbidden love that runs through it, the promise of some scrutiny of the way girls behave with girls, cliques and social wars intrigued me, but the promising start was let down by an anticlimactic ending and the coy unveiling of what you've probably already guessed at.
Some of the most interesting aspects (the complicated relationship between the headmaster's daughters, for example) were left unexplored, leaving me vaguely dissatisfied. The writing is sometimes awkward and the characters a little 2D - you're left with only mild impressions of many of them, and a sense that maybe Thea, as a narrator who leaves a path of destruction behind her, wasn't really worth so much of your time.
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