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Young, beautiful, and privileged, Thea Atwell lives on a sprawling ranch in Florida. She loves her twin brother, her parents, and, most of all, her horses. But while she intuitively understands the equestrian life, social isolation and unusual family dynamics have left her confused. She yields to her youthful desires and ends up in trouble with a boy, with disastrous consequences that compel her parents to send her to a horse camp for girls in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There, Thea learns how to navigate a complex yet nurturing social environment, one that allows her to acquire the life lessons she so desperately needs. Even as the Great Depression compounds the shattering of Thea's once predictable world, she ultimately finds the measure of her own strength. VERDICT Engrossing, empathetic, and atmospheric, this debut will resonate with readers as the author eloquently portrays the inevitable missteps in coming of age. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/12.]-Susanne Wells, Indianapolis, IN (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*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.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist
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The setup for this debut novel is delectable: it's 1930, the country is tumbling into depression, and 15-year-old Thea has done something bad enough to get her sent from Florida to an elite year-round "camp" in North Carolina where, at least at first, the effects of the economy are kept at bay while affluent Southern girls become "ladies." DiScalfani, who grew up around horses, is at her best when recreating the intuition and strength of girls in the saddle. Otherwise Thea's narration feels flattened by history and the characters she encounters never achieve dimensionality. The build toward the revelation of Thea's crime is drawn out, sapping the reveal of drama, but the account of Thea's emerging sexuality provides meaningful reflections on the potency of teenage desire. Here too, however, DiScalfani seems distanced from her characters, relying on declarations such as "I was not weak," "I was angry," and "I was glum" when exploring the tension of conflicting feelings. Though there are many twists and turns, the prose numbs the pleasure of reading about even the most forbidden of Thea's trysts. Agent: Dorian Karchmar, WME Entertainment. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.