In this novel set amid the looming threat of the draft in the 1960s, small-town teens create their own revolution as they take on their local radio station’s narrow-minded refusal to play Motown records.
In 1965, Lake Calloway, a small tourist town in northern Michigan, has managed to remain sheltered from social and political tensions that have been rising across the nation. But as Cooper, Eddie, Mike and Dennis look forward to the commencement of their senior year, they have no idea that things in their provincial town are about to be shaken up. The arrival of the town’s first black family brings latent racial tensions to the surface not only for their son, Victor, also a senior, but also for the boys who enthusiastically welcome him into their little crew. Meanwhile, evidence of a budding sexual revolution and use of the birth control pill become apparent when the school hires a young home economics teacher, Janet Carlsen, to incorporate sex education into Lake Calloway’s curriculum for the first time ever. As the school year begins, Eddie’s biggest concern is getting his boss at the radio station to loosen the reins on the heavily regulated list of preapproved rock songs Eddie is allowed to play; he’s eager to play some Motown, which is currently prohibited because it’s made by black artists. But when the boys turn 18 and receive their draft cards, they can no longer remain neutral on growing social and political movements. Victor helps his friends understand that sharing the contraband records over their small-town airwaves could actually ignite a much-needed revolution in Lake Calloway. Though Heininger’s debut novel offers a vibrant, memorable cast of well-developed characters, it’s unclear who the intended audience is; young protagonists and the high school coming-of-age setting suggest a YA audience, yet the novel is steeped in the type of nostalgia more suited to the crowd who actually experienced the 1960s. Furthermore, the framing of a sultry affair between Miss Carlsen and one of her students—“Cooper had suddenly been transported into teen-boy heaven”—as part of a social, political, racial and sexual revolution neglects to address some of the subtler implications of a sexual relationship between teacher and student, which may leave readers feeling a bit unsettled.
A nostalgic portrayal of social upheaval in the 1960s that’s sure to strike a chord with those who lived it.