I read Camp in one day. I didn’t mean to, but it spoke to something deep within me and I just lay in bed all day and read. Since I read in while social distancing, it was one of those moments where the perfect book falls into your life. I’m not even sure I have enough words to describe how much I loved Camp. Keep reading this book review to see me try.
Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.
This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.
But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I am here for the queer and I loved it! Camp features characters who are all queer at Camp Outland (so many identities, demisexual, lesbian, transgender, non-binary, gay, bisexual, asexual, aromantic, and more). And just for that fact alone, Camp felt almost instantly like such a safe space. At the same time, Camp deals with some emotional topics such as memories of homophobia, dealing with homophobia parents, and also this desire we have to try to be someone we aren’t. Readers can immediately empathize with Randy’s desire to re-brand himself. To try to change who we are to be someone else for love, for family, for acceptance.
And Rosen only capitalizes on this theme and reflects it in so many of the characters. This re-arranging of ourselves, the process of re-definition, the toll it takes, for our desires. Whatever it’s motivated by, this want to be someone else. Watching Randy struggle with this, and the other characters, felt both relatable and endearing. Knowing I’ve been there and, to this day, still struggle with this same issue. The warring sides of ourselves that want to exist, want to find love and happiness, and relief. Can we really change ourselves and should we?
I’ve never been to a summer camp. For me it always held this mythical status. Something I heard about and knew that, for some people it holds almost a transformative power. A space for re-definition, for trying pieces of ourselves out, to see what sticks. But also a space to (re)define our limits. A place to find out who we want to be.
An issue that Rosen explores both in the camp’s history lessons on the LGBTQIA+ movement and the character’s struggles, is our navigation of being ourselves balanced by our needs. Our needs could be for survival, for food, for shelter, for assistance, and when it makes sense to explore this divide. How at certain points in our life, one can outweigh the others – how we might make decisions that would erase pieces of ourselves, to force us to hide, to also keep us safe.
So while Camp has these moments of brightness, of queer celebration, of questioning the norm, it also has these very real decisions characters must make. Camp explores the costs of truth. What we are willing to hide to get what we want or need. And it’s a complex question. Camp will make you laugh, smile, and cry, maybe all at once. An emotional roller coaster that I can’t wait to re-read. It’s a celebration while also acknowledging that, at some point, the summer ends.
Book Launch Info
The Book’s virtual launch event (taking place May 27 at 7pm EST) – see graphic on the dropbox folder
Link to register to the free virtual event: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eEF2Vr7vSA69mHr2Vqvn9g
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of CAMP by Lev A. C. Rosen (US Only)
Starts: May 20th 2020
Ends: June 3rd 2020a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author
Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.
Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen
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