Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

When we first encounter Thea Atwell, our protagonist, she has been sent away from her home in Florida to the mountains of Appalachia in what we know is disgrace. She is 15 years old and one half of a set of fraternal twins, the other half of which remained at home with their parents. Thea hopes that she is merely there for summer camp, but when summer is over, she learns that she will be there for the rest of the school year at the very least. The events occur during the beginning of the Great Depression and one can tell that it is having an impact on the girls at the camp, many of whom must leave or get hastily married in order to ensure the family's financial stability and/or position. Economics, however, are a secondary theme to adolescent, and specifically female adolescent, sexual awakening. It doesn't take the reader long to figure out that sex was at the heart of Thea's exile from the fold; however, it is richly given to us in layers that are peeled away slowly.

The way that the story is told is very effective: DiSclafani alternates between the present, when Thea is at the boarding school and the past, when she is in Florida and hasn't yet experienced the acts that led to her exile. Both are very sensory and rich environments even though they are very different from one another. Thea is a tremendous character: she both feels guilt at the transgressions she's made in the sense that she feels bad that harm has come to people because of what she has done. At the same time, she loves the sensory feedback that she gets and she is very angry at her parents for sending her away. In my mind, this is a very realistic position for a character to be in because in real life, I'm sure many a person has felt that they were entitled to feel sexually fulfilled and have still felt guilty that their actions may have harmed or actually harmed someone (pedophiles aside). I really enjoyed this novel...even though it didn't give me any insight into why adolescents like horses...

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