The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel | SLJ Review

In this novel set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Caleb, a dashing young Easterner, longs to create a camp where kids can live simply, work, and enjoy the outdoors.

redstarABEL, Heather. The Optimistic Decade. 368p. Algonquin. May 2018. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781616206307.

In this novel set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Caleb, a dashing young Easterner, longs to create a camp where kids can live simply, work, and enjoy the outdoors. With a loan, he buys a Colorado ranch during a real estate bust. He has the charisma of a cult leader and succeeds in attracting residents, despite a lack of training and the terribly hot summer climate. Rebecca, a new counselor, comes from a family of idealists who publish a weekly paper pointing out the faults of the Reagan and Bush administrations. She has grown up attending rallies and carrying picket signs. At the camp, she is surprised to see that David, a boy whom she considered a nerd back home, is popular with the girls. Teens will be involved in their romance as they discover each other’s charms. Tension mounts when the local ranchers demand their land back, and the contrast between the conservative locals and the idealistic camp staff is well described. VERDICT This is an excellent coming-of-age tale with a sympathetic cast of characters. For teens who want a realistic, romantic, and thought-provoking story.–Karlan Sick, formerly at New York Public Library This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

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