In Hergenrader’s (Love Rules, 2016, etc.) YA novel, a young woman becomes the summer director at a Christian summer camp that seems to be on its last legs.
Poppi Savot, 19, dropped out of her freshman semester at the University of Minnesota, distracted by grief over her mother’s death from breast cancer. Her well-meaning father is struggling with alcoholism, so she needs to find a full-time job to get by. Recalling happy memories of her Christian summer camp, she finds an opening as a summer director at a similar place, Camp Eden in Southern California; she muses that it’ll be warm there and also “far from home and memories and failure.” When she arrives at the camp, she feels immediately at home, but the executive director, Bryan Simes, gives her bad news: Camp Eden is struggling financially and will close by the end of that summer, as it’s being sold to a corporation. Poppi could go home, but she feels that Eden is where she’s meant to be. She finds new allies in the 17-year-old camp counselors and particularly Jake Bass, a college sophomore who’s in charge of the male staff. As Poppi comes to terms with the difficulties and pleasures of her new responsibilities, she mourns her mother and struggles with her faith: “I feel about God the way I feel about my own dad. He seems unreliable.” Jake is intriguing, she thinks, but he might turn out to be unreliable, too. Still, despite the odds, Poppi and her helpers do their best to try to save the camp. Hergenrader nicely captures the friendships, games, problems, and atmosphere of summer camps, Christian ones in particular, such as when counselors groan at the thought of another God’s-eye craft project. Characters give thoughtful consideration to their religious beliefs, and Hergenrader does an especially good job of tracing Poppi’s evolving understanding of God’s will. The characters lack diversity, but they do exhibit a range of economic backgrounds. There’s some sentimentality in the novel’s idyllic presentation of summer camps in general, and there’s little suspense regarding whether things will work out in the end. Importantly, though, Poppi shows personal and spiritual maturity as she becomes willing to accept the possibility of failure.
An amusing, romantic, and uplifting YA tale.