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Photo courtesy of Nina Subin

The year is 1930. The Great Depression has immobilized the nation, and times are equally tough for Thea Atwell, a strong-willed 15-year-old who’s been cast out of her Florida home for an unspeakable act and shipped off to an equestrian boarding school in North Carolina.

Great premise, right?

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is one of the most highly anticipated (if admittedly unpronounceable) titles of the summer, so we were thrilled to get our hands on a copy to, you know, confirm that all the hype is warranted. It is.

At the camp, Thea navigates a deeply ingrained social structure: mean-girl hordes of Southern debutants, male suitors with unseemly desires and, of course, enough wind-in-your-hair horsey adventure to keep Black Beauty fans high on their saddles. But the story also deftly moves from present to past--specifically, the tumultuous year leading up to Thea’s mysterious misdeed.

First-time novelist Anton DiSclafani was a professional horseback rider, and her love of all things equine is obvious. But perhaps most impressive is her polished and assured voice, which feels remarkably authentic for the period. You may wonder if you’ve stumbled upon some long-lost book from your grandmother’s youth--that is, until you hit the sex scenes.

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