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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel Hardcover – June 4, 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 556 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been banished from her Florida family and sent to an exclusive equestrienne boarding school located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Homeschooled along with her fraternal twin, Thea had lived an overprotected and insular existence until the tragic incident that triggered her ouster from the family. Thrust into a complicated social milieu of southern debutantes and their rigid pecking order based on money, lineage, and looks, Thea struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt and homesickness as well as the challenge of fitting into her new school. But she also begins to feel her power, both because she knows she is beautiful and because she is an expert rider. Some readers will be put off by the book’s deliberate pacing and explicit sex scenes, but others will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This stellar debut novel was reported to have been bought for seven figures and has received blurbs from such high-profile authors as Curtis Sittenfeld and Lauren Groff. --Joanne Wilkinson


“What makes Yonahlossee emotionally engaging in its own right—this summer’s first romantic page turner—is Ms. DiSclafani’s sure-footed sense of narrative and place, and her decision to portray her heroine, Thea Atwell, in all her complexity: fierce, passionate, strong-willed, but also selfish, judgmental and self-destructive. By setting the novel in 1930, as America teeters on a financial cliff, and the days of debutante balls and fancy-dress parties seem numbered, Ms. DiSclafani has tried to situate the rarefied world her characters inhabit in a real-life context, even as she gives the reader some well-observed glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and not so famous. . . . By cutting back and forth between the events that took Thea to Yonahlossee and her experiences in school, Ms. DiSclafani methodically builds suspense, making the reader wonder how Thea’s two romances will unfurl, and whether they will dovetail or collide. . . .  The reader’s attention rarely wavers, thanks to Ms. DiSclafani’s knowledge of how to keep her foot on her story’s gas pedal, and her sympathy for her spirited, unbridled heroine.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is no one-trick phony. Even as Thea keeps wetting her lips to tell us the unspeakable truth, we’re lured into more complex and provocative aspects of her story. . . . The novel’s most daring aspect [is] its winding exploration of adolescent sexuality. . . . DiSclafani is a crafty mistress of . . . pious conventions. Her heroine must confront the old harlot-or-saint choice, but she won’t ultimately accept either role. Here is a young woman coming to understand the varieties of sexual experience—from abuse to delight—without renouncing her desire. . . . Sensing . . . harsh judgment from home and school and world, Thea concedes, 'I’m not a right girl.' But she’s fearless, and she’s riding to win."—The Washington Post

“DiSclafani is an insanely talented writer—her precise period details and lovely descriptions of riding and adolescence have a spellbinding effect.”—Entertainment Weekly

DiSclafani's writing is smart and sexy, and her characters are flawed and worth knowing as they navigate through life and don't always make the wisest decisions."—NPR

"Sparkling . . . DiSclafani's transporting prose recalls that uneasy time at the brink of adulthood, and reminds us that even the most protective parents can't keep the world at bay."—O, the Oprah Magazine

“The tone of the novel’s opening pages is hushed and portentous, as DiSclafani creates an atmosphere of spooky anticipation and foreboding. So vivid are DiSclafani’s descriptions that one can almost feel the humidity in the air, taste the famed Yonahlossee iced tea, see the gorgeous vistas of Blue Ridge Mountains around the camp.”—Boston Globe

“DiSclafani’s mastery of pace and mystery and her skilled evocation of the atmosphere in sultry Florida and the crisp Carolina mountains make this an uncommon first novel.”—Dallas Morning News

“There's much to enjoy here: clear, concise writing, lushly drawn settings, compelling choices of time and place.”—Chicago Tribune

"A captivating story of shame, blame and family secrets.”—USA Today

“Compelling debut.”—People

“Anton DiSclafani's debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, is a painstakingly constructed ode to a young girl's sexual awakening. This is perhaps one of the classier books a young teen would hide under her covers to read with a flashlight.”—NPR.org

"Boys may be boys, but girls—well, their coming-of-age can be more complicated. Anton DiSclafani’s vivid, beautifully written novel explores the consequences for Thea, a headstrong Depression-era teen who is banished to a posh southern school after a family tragedy."—Parade

"A smart, satisfying first novel."—Real Simple

"Lush . . . the tensions, jealousies and triumphs are deftly blended to vividly portray the coming of age of a gathering of girls at a particular time in a particular place."—New York Daily News

“In elegant prose that evokes the cadences of a vanished epoch, DiSclafani unfolds at a leisurely pace… An unusually accomplished and nuanced coming-of-age drama.”—Kirkus (starred review)

"Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. . . . [Readers] will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered here in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes."—Booklist (starred review)

“Engrossing, empathetic, and atmospheric, this debut will resonate with readers as the author eloquently portrays the inevitable missteps in coming of age. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal (starred review)

“I fell completely under the spell of Anton DiSclafani’s amazing first novel and was gripped by its lush and dreamy evocations of Southern decorum, family secrets, and boarding school rituals. DiSclafani is wildly talented, and this is a sexy, suspenseful, gorgeously written book.”—Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is so sexy, smart, and vividly drawn that I was surprised to remember that this novel is Anton DiSclafani's first. With such a big-hearted and atmospheric book, Ms. DiSclafani's talents should be celebrated far and wide.”— Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton

“Thea Atwell is an unforgettable heroine, and DiSclafani’s pitch-perfect details of time and place effortlessly drew me into this fantastic novel’s authentic and alluring world.”—Laura Moriarty, author of The Chaperone

“In her haunting debut, Anton DiSclafani reminded me how I came to love reading as a child, the way a book can so envelop you in its unique and vibrant world that even as you race toward the end, you find yourself dreading the moment it’s finished. It’s a fierce and tender, beautiful novel.”—Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594486409
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594486401
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (556 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Millay VINE VOICE on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this novel, at first - it's set in a tumultuous time (the Great Depression), in two equally rich and wondrous locations (the orange groves of central Florida and the majestic mountains of North Carolina), and it tells the gripping coming of age tale of a bold and somewhat esoteric girl named Thea Atwell (fraternal twin, accomplished equestrian, sheltered upper cruster). As the story opens Thea is being sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in North Carolina. She's been exiled from her Florida home for some unknown transgression, and the narrative alternates between her time at Yonahlossee and the previous year at home in Florida, slowly revealing exactly what happened to get her sent away.

The story is compelling and beautifully written, but as it moved along I found Thea to be more and more unlikable and unsympathetic. She's selfish and cruel and unstable, and I had issues in particular with her weird and aggressive sexuality. There are a lot of sexual encounters, both at home and at Yonahlossee, and they're bizarrely graphic in a "hard nipples through my thin nightgown" and "his fingers inside me" sort of way. I kept rolling my eyes and wondering how this story went so far off the rails and turned into Fifty Shades of Grey. And as others have noted, Thea's sexuality is much more dysfunctional and disturbing than it is scandalous, which seems a failure on the part of the book. It's like the author wanted to write something bold and empowering but ended up with something strange and sad. So towards the end of the book I felt like it had slipped from 5 stars to maybe 2.

Now that I'm finished and have taken some time to reflect on the book, I'm thinking maybe the author accomplished exactly what she meant to.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I guess I should say it quickly and get it over with. I did not love The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. I am most definitely in the minority but this certainly will not be the book of the summer for me. I should preface that I loved "Gone Girl" and "Indiscretion" and initially this book reminded me of "Prep" which I thought was outstanding. While this book effortlessly transported me to the 1930 Great Depression, for me it told a story that was hard to like. While it kept me reading, I found Thea's choices not scandalous just disturbing. Probably one of the few books I can think of where the subject matter was so objectionable.

15 year old Thea Atwell lives a sheltered life with her mother, father and twin brother. The story takes place during the Great Depression, however, Thea's family is well off. Her father is a respected country doctor and her mother has family money. Thea spends her days outside with her beloved twin brother Sam and her horse. The only visitors to the house are her father's brother and his wife and son, Georgie. Georgie is attracted to Thea and these feelings are reciprocated with consequences. Thea is the twin to be sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls. More a finishing schools for wealthy girls, for the first time, Thea comes to realize that there is more to life than what can be found in the small town in central Florida where she was raised.

Thea is initially incensed that she has been sent away from her family, but quickly becomes acclimated to boarding school life. She becomes best friends with Sissy, a popular girl whose friendship helps Thea to "fit in". She also has a rival at the stables in Leona, who is considered the best rider.
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Format: Hardcover
Take a little bit of E.M. Forster, a little bit of Chekov, some Jane Austen, Brideshead Revisited, 50 Shades of Grey, Sex and the City, and any dime-a dozen romantic fiction you can find, and mix well. Set the story in Depression-era North Carolina, add horses, and cross your fingers that the illusion will hold that you've just written a great debut novel so you don't have to pay back your advance before selling many many copies of your "work".

There were so many things I didn't buy about this novels' storyline and I am stunned (and a little depressed) by the gushing reviews and the hype the book has received. One things is certain; the writer knows about horses. That's the one thing that struck me as real. But the setting - I couldn't see it, other than the weather and glimpses of the surrounding landscape. The characters -stereotypical and romanticized, but most of all unreal. Sam is the animal loving brother with no personality beyond saving baby squirrels. Georgie the cousin is handsome and vague until the affair, when the description of his penis is the most lasting image. Thea, the narrator, seemed to me nothing but the invention of the writer; I have no idea who she is and what she wants. The musings upon "Mother and Father" and the isolated childhood of Sam and Thea - why? Why doesn't she love her parents? What is a "progressive childhood"? Disclafani writes about people who are not complex or interesting but trapped in their own personalities: Leona is always stoic and competitive and proud, Sissy sweet and a little foolish, Mary Abbott odd and insecure. Where is the conflict between the characters? More urgently: what is the main conflict, the core of this book?

Good fiction is magical, it creates a reality out of words on the paper.
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