‘It’s a safe place. A place for you all to be yourselves and have a childhood that you don’t get anywhere else.’– L.C. Rosen
Author: L. C. Rosen
Published: Penguin Books
Genre: YA Romance, Romantic Comedy
LGBTQIA literature: Yes
Publisher: Penguin Books
My rating: 4/5
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 very it takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for hunkey Hudson Aaronson-Lim – whose only into straight-acting guys and barely knows 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 bed sheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.
But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much he is willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
‘We can do everything straight people can do, you’re right, but what makes being queer special is we don’t have to if we don’t want to.’– L.C. Rosen
When I picked up this book, I knew it would be a good read but nothing could have prepared me for the unique and essential storyline that hit me.
The book was not only fresh but also close to reality. It had one of the best representations of all the sapphic books I’ve read.
Camp is set in a queer camp where queer teens can go to find acceptance and overcome bias by being themselves unapologetically for a month. Like any other camp, it has activities to do but most of all, it uplifts the once that need to be.
The narrator of the book is Randy aka Del aka Randall who has transformed himself for love. It seems to be working pretty well. What I liked here is that as absurd as it sounds he always maintained that it’s not permanent and that he will slowly turn back.
The story flows in two timelines, the present with Del and the past with the original Randy. I was expecting them to coincide sometime but I realised that it’s only to give us a glimpse to the past and an idea about how Randy came to this decision in the first place.
He has got some amazing friends who support him but also give him their honest opinion. What the author managed to do is share the spotlight equally among all the characters. The supporting characters don’t even feel like side characters. They shine with their own glitter.
The character development is also immense and commendable. As irritating as Del may seem, he is a teenager and being irritating is almost every teenagers secong nature. So, the author nailed it. But, he also grows so much.
The best part of the story is how we are shown all the sides and edges there are to the life of queer teens. Not everyone is readily accepted and not everyone is free to be who they are even after coming out. And this is expressed very well in the book.
We definitely need more books like this. It’s the need of the hour.
I rate the book 4/5 for being so important and just.
There’s not much mystery surrounding the book so as to call this as the spoiler section but there were a few things that happened that were too good to not talk about.
Starting with Hudson’s family history, this is one of the prime examples for DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER. Yes, he was all crazy about being masc but his parents have forced him to do so. He lost his grand mother, the only person who ever accepted him in the family and fights his way to the camp every year. The way he opens up to Randy warmed my heart.
The history lessons given at the camp are so important and I wish everyone gets them. I like how even though the book was all fun and romance it didn’t deter from the cause of giving queer teens a sense of belonging.
The most important one is Randy’s diva blue sequin jumpsuit and his amazing win at the obstacle course. It was so dramatic and amaizng. The aftermath of the race was painful but necessary too. Hudson got to face the truth that you don’t have to act masc to he masc and I am glad he agrees to accept who he is.
I love how they write their names on the tree as Randy and Hudson instead of Del and Hal or anything temporary or fake. I’m glad they found each other.
The overly dramatic acknowledgements are to date the best way I’ve ever seen an author do this part. It was so unique and fresh just like the story. I can’t stop talking about it.
‘I think he believes in me, and that makes me feel like I have a thousand stars–a galaxy–inside me, glowing brightly.’– L.C. Rosen
Coming to the characters:
Randall: He is actually a sweetheart so smitten by love that he forgoes his passion for theatre and the usual fun he has with his friends to be with Hudson who openly hates on ‘Gay Acting queer men’. He tries to be masc and turns out that it isn’t that hard. In the process he manages to make Hudson fall for him but also keeps getting reality checks from his friends. Eventually, when he confesses to Hudson, he calls him a ‘Fa***t’ and that breaks him. After Hudson has time to think and tries to reconcile, he acts like an idiot. It takes for Hudson to accept who he is for Randy to take him back. But they do get back and I hope they live happily ever after.
Hudson: aka HAL is known to be someone who gets in with a new guy each time and sleeps with him in the second week and ends things by the next. But, Randy changes that about him and he genuinely falls in love. He goes from accusing his friend Brad for using nail polish to wearing nail polish himself. He has the highest growth in terms of a character and is handsdown one of my favourites. I love everything about his past and feel heavily for the unfortunate parents he was born to. I really hope it changed for him.
George: My best friend! Atleast my fictional best friend? I love him. Especially how he is so unapologetically himself and doesn’t give a damn of what people think or say. He’s a passionate actor and a very honest friend. He will support you in all your decisions but will never back away from telling you if your stepping into a ditch. I am so glad he found Brad this time.
AshLeigh: The girl with a crush on a straight woman. Well, atleast when she had a crush, she was straight. Ashleigh is a tech nerd but lives in the drama tent because friendship above all else. She does not take any shit for herself or her friends but she is really shy. This summer, she gets to be the head of lighting on the drama and also finds someone with similar interests as herself.
What I liked about it:
- very easy read
- one of the best queer reps ever
- a realistic story showing us both the sides of the coin
- pleasing ending
- smooth writing
- The unique acknowledgements in the end was amazing
- Friendship goals
‘There’s no one way to be gay and no coming out story is the same as another.’– L.C. Rosen
I made my first ever reading vlog for this book. Check it out by clicking on this link: CAMP – READING VLOG. If you like that video, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more.
If you liked that and you want to see an uncut and super extended version of our chat, click on this link: CAMP – UNCUT DISCUSSION
Thank you! Stay tuned for more.