Book Review: Camp by Elaine Wolf

Every secret has a price.

Going to sleep-away camp can be one of the most wonderful experiences for a young girl. But for Amy Becker, it's a nightmare. Amy, whose home life is in turmoil, is sent away to summer camp for the first time as a teenager. Though she swears she hates her mother, who is unduly harsh with Amy's autistic younger brother, Amy is less than thrilled to be leaving home. When she arrives at camp, she is subjected to a horrifying initiation and bullying by Rory, the ringleader of the girls in her cabin. Then a cousin reveals dark secrets about Amy's mother, setting in motion a tragic event that changes Amy and her family forever.

CAMP is a compelling coming-of-age novel about bullying, mothers and daughters, and the collateral damage of family secrets. It's a powerful mother-daughter story for mothers and daughters to share.

Release Date: June 15, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Source: Review copy from publisher

What a well-written coming-of-age story!  I do so love a first-person narrative, especially in this kind of novel.  Camp is set in the 1960's, something that I really enjoyed.  It was neat to get a glimpse of family life back then.  The family dynamics were intriguing, especially considering Amy's mother's immigrant history.  

I really felt for Amy.  She feels responsible for her younger brother, Charlie, who is autistic.  Their parents are not exactly models of the best way to care for and treat an autistic child.  Often, they escalate Charlie's tantrums simply by their own inappropriate reactions to his behavior.  Mrs. Becker is the worst.  I sometimes got the feeling that she didn't love Charlie, or Amy at all.  In an era where children were supposed to be seen and not heard, having an autistic child was terribly hard, I'm sure.  Especially one who throws fits and screams out, thus drawing unwanted attention every time the family is in public.  Amy is the only member of the family who can calm Charlie down, and he really depends on her.

Amy's mother is so hard on her: she is constantly wanting Amy to be perfect.  She won't let her eat dessert, for fear that Amy will become overweight.  She makes Amy dress up, more than other girls her age, and that makes Amy stand out (which she hates).  Nothing Amy does seems to be good enough: not her friends, her grades, her posture, even the way she eats is criticized by her mother.  Her mother even makes Amy account for her use of toiletries!  She was just a tough cookie.  I could tell that there was something more going on with Mrs. Becker, but I didn't learn exactly what until the end of the story.

Amy only thought her life was tough before camp.  She is set apart from the other girls before they even get on the bus to leave for camp.  The other girls laugh at Charlie and the way he clings to Amy, not wanting her to leave.  The ringleader, Rory, is the worst, and sets out to make Amy's eight weeks of summer camp miserable.  Amy's cousin Robin is at camp, but she quickly takes sides with Rory, thus leaving Amy all to herself.  Amy does make a few friends, and they develop a plan to get Rory's behavior discovered by the camp owner (who also happens to be Amy's uncle) and have Rory sent home.

I really liked the interwoven stories in Camp.  Not only do you have Amy's story, but there are bits and pieces of the other girls' lives that I really enjoyed.  And Mrs. Becker's history was my favorite part of the novel.  All of this intrigue kept me interested and in fact, led me to finish the book in a day.

My one problem with Camp was the pacing.  There was a lull in the middle of the story, then in the last fourth of the book, or so, everything seemed to happen at once.  I would have liked to see more of Amy's years between camp and high school.  I think that would have really fleshed out the story, and shown change and character growth.

Overall, I really enjoyed Camp.  I think it would be an excellent book for mothers and daughters to read together.  It covers the relationship between mothers and daughters, relationships between siblings, and the effects of grief and bullying.  I would definitely read Elaine Wolf again!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Word verification stinks--- but spammers are worse. Thank you for your patience!