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.