I have a very important piece of advice to give readers when it comes to this book. Clear your schedule. Not because it’s a fast-paced, heart-pounding read, but because it’s one that needs total attention. If you jump back and forth between Yonahlossee and real life, you’ll lose the true beauty of the book, which lies heavily in the characters and the subtle changes of self and scene.
Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls because of a terrible tragedy that struck her family which, we learn, was her doing. Thea has led an unusually sheltered life for a girl her age. She and her twin brother Sam have only ever really known their immediate family. Living in Florida, on a citrus farm with their parents, they’ve never had much exposure to other children and society. Home-schooled and content with their nuclear lives, the world outside is a mystery. The only outside friend they’ve ever had is their cousin, George. When Thea is sent to Yonahlossee, she’s faced with the heartbreak of being sent away by her family, the confusion of living with other girls, and the normal hormonal changes that teenagers experience, it’s a whirlwind of emotions. Told from the first person narrative, there is a maturity to the narration which leads readers to believe a much older Thea Atwell is looking back upon her years and telling her story. The narration jumps back and forth between Thea’s memories of her childhood, leading up to the unraveling of her youth, and her experiences at Yonahlossee.
Beautifully, Anton Disclafani orchestrates all these situations with a quiet grace and clarity. It’s not a plot that assaults the senses, but one that invites you to sink deeper into understanding the scandal beneath the surface.