Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Barnes & Noble
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From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.
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?
Camp is a fun and summery book set at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens, and does a great job of basically destroying toxic masculinity. Camp Outland is a place where queer teens are free to be themselves, away from the outside world where they might be hiding who they really are. The novel is extremely sex-positive and every single character in the book is queer so I think it would be a great read for any queer teens who are seeking to find themselves in a novel.
As much as I enjoyed the book by the time I had finished it, I have to say that I got very very close to DNFing it during the first half of the book. Camp predominantly focuses on a romance between main character, Randy and the boy who he has had a crush on for 4 years, Hudson. Hudson has a reputation for only being into butch boys and Randy is anything but that. In order to get Hudson to notice and fall in love with him, Randy spends a year reinventing himself to become straight-acting, including changing his name to “Del”, changing the way he walks, talks and dresses, and playing sports instead of focusing on theatre. And it works pretty much immediately. On the first day of camp, Hudson notices Del and by evening, they’re making out against the side of a building.
I just had a problem with all of the lies in the book. The relationship between Del and Hudson are based on the fake identity that Del has created for himself and also lies that he and his friends create and perpetuate. The whole thing made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Not to mention Del’s intense positivity in thinking that he could revert back to being Randy and face zero consequences. The first third (maybe half) of the book spans only the first 2 days of camp but feels like at least a week should have passed because of how quickly Del and Hudson’s flirting and relationship has progressed. I just was not a fan of the first half of the book but really enjoyed the second half when we started focusing more on the themes of the book rather than the lies and pretending to be someone who you’re not in order to get someone to be interested in you.
“You said we could be better. But being like them isn’t better. 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.”
I did really like Randy as a character… when he wasn’t being delusionally positive about his relationship with Hudson. He was smart, funny and fabulous. I loved his friendships with his best friends George and Ashleigh, but also really enjoyed seeing his friendships with the other theatre kids in his cabin. And of course, George and Ashleigh were great side characters – I wish I could have even a fraction of George’s confidence. But overall, I just really enjoyed the diversity of the characters and the message that there is no one way of being queer. Hudson, though, I wasn’t a huge fan of. He was a bit of a jerk sometimes and you do get to hear his backstory and understand where he’s coming from but he really just wasn’t for me.
And the camp itself was really, really fun. Summer camps aren’t really a big thing in Australia, especially when I was growing up, so it’s a concept that is still quite foreign to me. As an introvert and city girl, I’m not sure that camp is really for me but Camp Outland really made me want to experience it once for myself! Especially because it’s set in an environment that is sex-positive and full of acceptance from other campers and counsellors who understand you. I loved these aspects of the book.
If you’re looking for a summery read that will lift your spirits and encourage you to be your true selves, Camp is a lovely story that will put a smile on your face. Unfortunately, it was hard for me to look past all of the lies that make up the premise of this book, which really affected my enjoyment of reading it.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thank you to Penguin Australia for providing a review copy of the book.
Camp is available now at Australian retailers for $16.99 RRP.
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