A group of former students works to spread the word about a unique approach to building healthier communities.
In 1996, Mr. Hoffer, a civics teacher at Bloomfield High in California, brought a group of his students to nearby Mapleton High School. They were there to learn about Another Way, Mapleton’s unique, wildly successful townwide system of public service and volunteerism. It’s based on the idea that people are innately good, and, if organized and working together, they’re better able to handle challenges in their community than the federal government. During a wide-ranging meeting with the Mapleton students, the Bloomfield kids learned the general outline of the Another Way system, and they also formed lasting bonds with their hosts. Fifteen years later, Another Way is going strong in Bloomfield, and former Mapleton star athlete and pro basketball player Lincoln Williams, one of the students at the 1996 meeting, is now a public figure and an outspoken Another Way advocate. During a meeting of some of the original Thirteen, as the 11 students and two teachers who attended the meeting in Mapleton in 1996 are called, a student suggests that Williams should run for office. After some soul-searching, Williams agrees to run for a vacant seat in the House of Representatives on a platform based on the fundamental principles underlying Another Way, with help from the Thirteen. This is book one in a planned six-volume series, which will follow the Thirteen through the year 2050. According to the prologue, Bohannon-Kaplan decided to frame her ideas in the form of a novel because more people read fiction than read books about public policy. Unfortunately, this results in a somewhat unwieldy hybrid—a policy book that lacks focus due to the demands of fiction and a novel that’s too often slowed to a crawl by extended policy discussions and philosophical debate. Still, the prose is clear and direct, and whether or not readers agree with Bohannon-Kaplan’s vision, they’re bound to appreciate her enthusiasm.
Full of passion and ideas but wedged in an awkward place between fiction and policy.