This isn’t about ballet. But art is art.
I love books. As a kid, I thought my books were friends. As an adult, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever outgrown the notion. But it wasn’t until I grew up that I learned to love talking about the books I cherished. Let’s be honest – I was selfish kid, and I wanted my friends to myself. =)
The last book I read is The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani. While reading it, I remember questioning whether or not I actually liked it (never a good sign, if you ask me). But then I noticed that I kept thinking about the book when I WASN’T reading it. Replaying scenes, wondering what the characters would do next, interpreting what the author was doing when she added a certain passage. So, overall, I’d say it gets the KitTeaCat seal of approval: Good. Book.
I demolished this book in a few days. It’s an easy, quick read. The story is set in a North Carolina girls’ boarding school during the 1930’s. The jacket blurb describes it as a “coming of age” story – which I hate. Someone says “coming of age” and my brain immediately goes to Cather in the Rye. I am the only person on the planet that is not in love with Cather in the Rye, so this is not a great association. But the narrator is a 15 year old girl growing up and figuring out the world, so I guess it is an apt, if oversimplified and overused description.
I won’t go into plot details and ruin it for anyone. But here are some things I liked:
- The characters had substance. Some of the girls at the girls camp are described superficially and flatly – but that’s how a 15 year old girls describes other girls she doesn’t know, so it works within the story. Thea (the main character and narrator) and her family are flawed, and it makes them real.
- The treatment of the time period. Great Depression stories (and any period pieces, actually) can be predictable – because I, in 2013, know what happens next. But a young girl doesn’t know anything about economics. The period is at the same time not important, and always coloring the action.
- The title. I didn’t even read the plot summary or blurb before I chose the book. The title sold me. I proudly admit I judge books by their covers. If you want this girl’s attention, get a snappy title.
. . . But even though I like the book, there were some things I did NOT like. I love books, but I’m also pretty judgmental. Don’t want your book judged? Don’t publish it!
- The title. I know I just said it’s why I picked up the book, and it is. But after finishing it, I have a huge problem with the title. I once had a theatre professor who told me that the best way to figure out the theme or point of a play was to ask yourself three questions: What happens at the beginning? What happens at the end? What’s the title? As a result, I put great stock in titles (Read: I am a Cover Judger). And if you name your book for the setting, it has to be more than a setting. The place actually has to become a character itself (See Alice Hoffman’s Blackbird House . . . brilliant book, brilliant writer!). And the riding camp of title fame is just a riding camp. The novel could have been set somewhere else and it would be the same novel.
- Anachronism. Or rather, the author’s pains to point out that she is avoiding anachronisms, especially at the beginning of the book. I would much rather you made a researching error, or accidentally put a television in 1932 than for you to explain yourself. There’s one part where the narrator goes riding without a helmet, and then explains it is because no one wore helmets then. It took me out of the action.
- The horses. I think I am just being picky here. The author explicitly states that Thea loves horses several times in the book, but I would have preferred her to show me rather than tell me. There are a thousand little ways to show that love of horses, but I didn’t really believe it. It’s like when someone says “Trust me.” I automatically assume you’re a lying snake. Because honest people are never touchy about being trusted.
- The ending. I feel like the author was trying to tie up all the loose ends, like a movie that runs “updates” on all the characters so you can see that everyone go that they deserved. Through the whole novel, Thea is learning that things aren’t neat and tidy in life . . . then the story is wrapped up, all neat and tidy. It’s not a bad ending. It’s just too clean.
So please, read for yourself. There will be more book discussions to come . . . for I am a nerd. =)