Posted: Friday, June 21, 2013, 8:33 am
This summer's first buzz-worthy literary debut is smart, scandalous and seductive.
This coming-of-age novel has been getting lots of buzz from reviewers and bloggers. It tells the story of Thea Atwell, who has been sent away to an elite horse riding camp for girls due to a mysterious family scandal. Thea interprets being sent to the camp as punishment, while her twin brother is allowed to stay home.
Set in the 1930s, Thea comes from an affluent family and has been fairly sheltered her entire life. She is unaware of the financial stress most of the country is facing. Her childhood on a beautiful citrus farm seemed idyllic, but Thea soon realizes how secluded she was with only her brother and older male cousin for companionship. Although she arrives at the camp with more guilt and shame than any 15-year-old should, by the end of the book has grown into an amazingly strong and confident woman.
The pacing is slow, but the back and forth narration leading up to the aforementioned scandal and its painful aftermath provide enough tension to keep readers' attention. Even though we don't actually find out what she did "wrong" until the middle of the book, Thea's recounting offers many clues. Thea thought she was being punished, but being sent away was the best thing that could have happened to her.
I really liked the change in Thea's character and thought DiSclafani did a great job juxtaposing her story and the camp setting with the Depression time period. The writing is so beautiful and seductive, I often felt like I was at camp with Thea and she was confiding in me. DiSclafani's debut provides an interesting look at gender and sexuality in the 1930s. If readers don't mind the mature scenes, this would be a great choice for a book discussion group.