The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was recommended to me several months ago, and then I was #blessed enough to find it at a library book sale for $1. So, it seemed this book and I were destined to cross paths, and who am I to tempt fate? Here is a short description from Goodreads:
It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.
First things first, the pacing of this book was incredible. Honestly, I'm still not sure how DisClafani managed to draw out the mystery of why Thea Atwell was sent to Yonahlossee for so long without me growing frustrated. But, by great talent or witchcraft (still sorting out which), she did, and it was wonderful. The story moves back and forth between Thea's life before Yonahlossee and her life at Yonahlossee. The before story line is building up to the big reveal, which is what Thea did to get her sent away to Yonahlossee, so it is very tense, and I found myself constantly searching for hints and clues about what would be her undoing. However, the after story line--Thea's life at Yonahlossee--was where the story faltered slightly for me.
The cast of characters grew significantly when Thea went away to school because she was surrounded by her classmates, and DisClafani didn't seem to have a firm grasp on all of their characters. There was definitely an attempt made to give each girl a distinct personality, but to be honest, they all meshed together in my head. Aside from Thea, there were four characters from the school that I was able to picture and imagine clearly, but otherwise, the rest of the girls were jumbled in the background, and each time one of their names were mentioned, I had a hard time remembering who was who. This was not a huge obstacle in my ability to enjoy reading the book, but it made me feel slightly unmoored as I moved through the story.
Overall, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was beautifully written, extraordinarily paced, and a very interesting look into the narrow, yet deep world of a young girl in the 1920s. The book delved into issues of passion and expectations, both social and familial, all set against the looming threat of the Great Depression. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Yonahlossee, and though there were a few hiccups, I will have no problem recommending it in the future.
Have you read anything by Anton DisClafani? What is your favorite historical romance novel? Let me know in the comments below!