*The book discussed in this post was gifted by Penguin.
For me, a new book by Lev has been a long time coming. I absolutely adored Jack Of Hearts (and Other Parts), so the wait for a new book felt like forever. Penguin kindly gifted me a copy of Camp to help celebrate the book ‘coming out’.
This was a book that i wanted to go in to without knowing anything. I’d done that with Jack Of Hearts and my reading experience of that book was absolutely wonderful. Camp is set in a LGBTQ+ summer camp in rural America, where anyone LGBTQ+ comes for four weeks to do crafts, hikes, make friends and honestly it sounds like the best camp in the world. It also sounds like a meet up of our book club. Randy has been attending camp for quite a few years now and has made good friends in George and Ashleigh, but he’s always been interested in Hudson. The sports fanatic boy who chooses two sex conquests each year over the four weeks. Randy wants to make an impression on Hudson, and he doesn’t care if he has to change himself completely to get Hudson to fall in love with him.
The main topics in this book are obviously LGBTQ+ themes, positives and negatives. There is a lot of discussion of being yourself and being proud of who you are, but on the flip side there is a lot of discussion of safety and when the right time to be yourself is. The fact that it was even brought up in a YA book shocked me. That honesty is needed sometimes, and this is definitely one of those times. Hudson cannot necessarily be himself for numerous reasons, and the fact that it was discussed and addressed that being the true him wouldn’t be completely safe felt like a huge step for a YA book. Camp didn’t glorify coming out, or new relationships, it didn’t assume everything was perfect for everyone, but it did provide an escape for the characters and for the reader.
I’ve never read a book where i’ve felt so at home. Obviously, the nature of the book allowed for mainly LGBTQ+ characters with very little room for anything else. I felt completely safe and comfortable reading this book and seeing each character have different personalities and identify in different ways. It showed that there is so many ways to be gay, and in some ways definitely read as a LGBTQ+ help book that i wish i had ten years ago.
The characters, as always with Lev’s books are extremely well written. Their personality literally bounce off the page and they all felt special in their own ways. Even the camp counsellors were hilarious and i connected with a lot. The writing just fit so well with the situation.
Lev’s books are never short of humour, and sex. And Camp was filled with both. It didn’t hide anything from teenagers. As expected a camp of LGBTQ+ teens was going to be sex filled. There was a lot of discussion and one VERY detailed sex scene i was no expecting, so maybe keep that in mind if it’s not your thing or giving it to a much younger teen. However for older teens, it’s perfect and completely realistic. The humour in the book again was excellent. It’s hard to go a couple of pages without laughing out loud at Lev’s work, and any time Mark said ‘My therapist said…’ i did laugh a little. It made the whole experience of reading honestly a joy.
Right now, Camp felt like a complete escape for me. It was realistic and loud and vibrant and happy, and very very in your face queer. I loved it, and i know so so many more people will absolutely adore this book.
Camp is released on the 28th of May in the U.K. and is avaiable for home delivery from all major book sellers.