Camp by L.C. Rosen

I want to begin this review by saying that I have been looking forward to this book since it was announced because I’ve spent seven summers at camp as a camper/counselor and now my oldest goes away to camp too. With summer camp being cancelled for the year, I was looking forward to a camp story even more.

Randy has been going to Camp Outland for queer teens for years, but he wants things to be different: Randy wants to catch the attention of Hudson, a fellow camper, but Hudson only likes straight-acting guys, and that’s not Randy. But it could be, right? Randy spent the entire school year formulating a plan, and he shows up at camp as “Del”, who is totally not into nail polish and musicals and all the things that Randy likes.

And the plan works! Hudson notices Del right away and he doesn’t even realize that Del is the same kid he’s been going to camp with for four years, but as the summer progresses, Randy is spending all his time playing sports and doing ropes course challenges instead of being in the musical with his friends, and he begins to wonder if all the sacrifices he’s making are worth it.

As a veteran camper, I remember the intensity of summer romances, so I can empathize with Randy’s pining for Hudson, but he’s changing his entire personality for another boy and missing out on all the things that he loves—and more importantly, by doing this, he’s not being true to himself. That said, I truly understand why he would want to do something that drastic.

Camp provides an interesting retrospective on masc4masc culture, and how the attitude is already evident among 16-year-old kids. The campers might all have a place on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but there’s already a division among the returning campers; they choose to live in separate bunks, they sit at different dining tables, and they don’t even interact at group activities. However, Randy chooses to live in the “drama cabin” with this theatre friends, so some of the sporty kids end up sitting with the drama kids, and this leads to new friendships.

In Rosen’s book Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), he used the advice column medium to impart a lot of useful sex-ed information to the readers. In Camp, he uses a weekly camp program to share queer history with the readers. I love the way that both of these devices were blended seamlessly into the narrative.

I would absolutely recommend Camp. It captures the magic of camp perfectly. Randy is such a sweetheart, and he certainly learns a lot over the course of the book. I am already looking forward to Rosen’s next book.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

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Be Prepared is a middle grade graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. We found this book at the town library, and my girls were very excited because they’ve enjoyed some of her other books.

This is a semi-autobiographical story about Vera’s childhood, although she explains at the end how some details were exaggerated, etc. As the story begins, Vera wants nothing more than to fit in with her American classmates. They have American Girl dolls, Carvel ice cream cake, and stuffed crust pizza, and Vera’s single mother simply cannot provide such luxuries. There is only one “fancy” thing that Vera can do to emulate her wealthier classmates, and that is go to sleepaway camp.

Vera’s Russian cultural camp is nothing like the posh camps that her friends attend, and it takes awhile for her to get used to new people, new routines, and of course, the stinky outhouse. It’s not as easy as Vera thought it would be to make friends, and she wonders if she’ll ever find her place. Read more

Perennials by Mandy Berman

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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Perennials is author Mandy Berman’s debut novel. I was looking forward to reading this book because I spent seven summers at sleepaway camp as both a camper and a counselor, so I could relate to the subject matter and wanted to see how this (albeit fictional) account compared to my own experiences.

Rachel lives in an apartment in the city with her single mother and Fiona lives in a big house in Westchester with her family. But when they meet at summer camp as girls, they find that they have a lot in common.   Read more

Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh

51arpbju1wlI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter is almost nine years old, so I have recruited her to help me with the middle grade ARCs that I receive from Netgalley. She is a voracious reader, but she tends to gravitate towards comics and graphic novels rather than novels. Reading together gives her the opportunity to expand her repertoire, and I get some great feedback from the target demographic.

We recently read Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh. The story begins with narrator Julia on the bus to sleepaway camp with Avery and Becca, her “Chinese sisters”. The girls were all adopted at the same time from the same orphanage. Avery and Becca live close to each other, get together all the time, and have embraced their Chinese heritage. Julia has been struggling with her identity, and sees herself as half Irish, half Italian like her parents- and half Chinese too. Read more