A teen is sent to a remote Wyoming horse camp to recover from the trauma of her parents’ impending divorce.
Sixteen-year-old Cassidy gets to spend the summer with mostly-troubled, mostly-rich teens at Point of No Return Youth Ranch, working off part of the cost of her stay by cleaning latrines. At camp she’s expected to ride the horses—despite her fear of them—and also work with yearling mustangs, accustoming them to human handling before they’re auctioned at the end of the summer. Slowly, Cassidy begins to open up to a few of her fellow campers and counselors, particularly her tentmate Alice and the junior counselor, Justin, who sneaks out at night to set penned mustangs loose. Told from Cassidy’s first-person point of view, it’s a complex story that unfolds slowly, with no startling transformations or revelations, just a real-life sense of growth, accomplishment, and purpose. In the end, Cassidy says, “…the space between what I thought happiness looks like and all the things I didn’t want to happen is the space where I found a new happiness….” A white default is assumed, with a few diverse characters present. Unfortunately, Asian-American Alice has a two-dimensional, clichéd backstory that feels inauthentic, and African-American camper, Ethan, behaves in a way that feeds negative stereotypes of black males in a tone-deaf, cringeworthy scene seemingly intended to evoke feel-good anti-racist solidarity.
A thoughtful book apart from its well-intentioned blunders around diverse representations. (Fiction. 12-18)