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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
A Decade Aborning by Keith Julius is a social issues novel and the fourth book in The CASA Chronicles, preceded by book one, Catch a Falling Star, book two, Born for Adversity, and book three, The Robber of Youth. This installment revolves around a suicidal teenage girl named Pamela Watkins, who is introduced as she is standing on the edge of a bridge, ready to jump. Saved from the irrevocable, Pamela's parents charge into the situation with a mixture of shock, anger, and sadness. Beverly Johnson, a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate, also called CASA, remembers Pamela Watkins as the little girl that she worked with ten years earlier when the Watkins family adopted Pamela. Narrated in alternating points of view and pieced together with meeting transcripts and journal-style entries from Pamela dating back ten years, the story of how and why Pamela almost jumped and Beverly's struggle with a feeling of failure begins to unfold.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not know going in what a CASA was and what an advocate did, nor had I read any of the previous books in the series. Keith Julius made any issues that may have arisen for readers who find themselves in the same boat go away. A Decade Aborning reads seamlessly as a stand-alone and Beverly uses a scene as she's about to see Pamela again for the first time in ten years to explain the differences between a caseworker and an advocate, what they do, and the agencies they represent. Julius strings tension through the entirety of the novel and while Pamela's backstory is heartbreaking, particularly as it is told through the lens of when she was little, Beverly's work and Pamela's uncle, Brian, were the most intriguing to me. I think we generally view even volunteers in a role of advocacy as pencil-pushing bureaucrats, but through Beverly, the human element comes to life and that perspective shifted for me dramatically. There are two explosive twists that occur and the drama kicks up about a thousand notches when we get into the headspace of a boy named Bobby's parents. The writing is clean, tight, and believable, and the characters are deeply layered. From start to finish, Julius maintains a steady pace and the result is an engrossing story that does the genre and the CASA community proud.