Early Review – The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani

Posted June 1, 2013 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Library Thing, the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafaniThe Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Published by Riverhead on June 4th 2013
Pages: 390
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing, the Publisher


A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South.

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.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.

The authors childhood fondness for horseback riding sets the scene of this story about teenage angst, boarding school drama and a family scandal that changes a girl forever. Thea Atwell has lived with her family on their Florida farm since she was born but after a recent scandal her parents have sent her to The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. The back story slowly unfurls as her time at camp passes.

Going in to this novel I had already seen many rave reviews for it and that it was also on several Summer Reading Lists. It’s quoted as being ‘lush, sexy and evocative‘. Entertainment Weekly says ‘…the lovely descriptions of riding and adolescence have a spellbinding effect.‘ Kirkus Reviews called it “an unusually accomplished and nuanced coming-of-age drama.” Suffice it to say I went into this with extremely high expectations. My overall opinion? This is one terribly dull book that is not helped by the attempts to shock and disgust by the author.

100+ pages in and it’s brought to our attention that 2 months have passed but you could have fooled me considering nothing of consequence had actually occurred. (But honestly, nothing of consequence EVER seems to happen. The entire book.) The majority of those 100+ introductory pages felt like a whole bunch of inconsequential filler. It’s also extremely disjointed and lacks a much needed flow. There’s a dance, then they have riding lessons, and now it’s bath time. It’s never a full day though so it’s difficult to grasp exactly how much time has even passed.

‘I knew what it was like, to love horses. But I also knew what it was like to love humans. I knew what it was like to want, to desire so intensely you were willing to throw everything else into its fire.’

Lines like that if read without context would make me think this was a fascinating book about a headstrong and passionate girl. But the rest of the lines spoke of a girl that wasn’t raised around anyone but family and had terrible trouble adapting with suddenly being shipped off to camp. Thea is a terribly awkward girl that seems extraordinarily confused with life in general and her purpose in it. It was not a joyful story to read about.

The writing was at times extremely well done but as a whole ended up being excessively descriptive and made the story feel long and drawn out. This was an extremely lackluster and disjointed story that only managed to keep me interested enough to find out the ‘scandal’ that caused her to be sent to camp in the first place. The shock factor was there, however, it lacked any significance and essentially ended up being overly superfluous and just left a bad taste in my mouth.



2 responses to “Early Review – The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani

  1. Oh no! I hate when my expectations are set incredibly high by glowing reviews and then I feel like I read a different book than everyone else. It happens to me all the time, sadly. 🙂 I was curious about this book after seeing it on a few summer reading lists, but honestly it sounds dreadfully boring. It seems like the writer has a way with words, but maybe her next book will be a better overall reading experience. Thanks for this thoughtful, honest review Bonnie!
    My recent post Ink Blog Tour: A Tour of Shizuoka with Amanda Sun

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