Summer Book Review

You guys…
I think that BR Myers is stalking me…

Haha, just kidding (I think?) but I did read her adorable book a few months ago called Girl on the Run. Which I happened to pick up by chance, because it was near Tyler Oakley’s Binge book in Chapters (which I also picked up), and I liked the look of the cover.

Once I turned it over and read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. It was a book about running AND camp!!! Two of my favourite things!!

So I brought it home and started reading it, it was so much fun (and also a little unsettling, but I’ll get into that in a moment).

It’s a YA novel about a 17 year old girl who has given up running after her father’s death, she heads to summer camp to try to get her life back on track (peh. heh. heh. unintentional pun, but I like it and now I’m proud of it!)

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When I started reading it I was reminded of the Sweet Valley High books I used to read when I was young, it was a fun read and I finished it by the end of the evening.

There were a couple of references in the book that made me say ‘YES, this author totally gets me, we should be friends”.

And then there were a few story points that made me think “man, this camp is SKETCHY!”

Let’s get into it, shall we?

*Warning – Spoilers Ahead*

Things that made me go hmmm…

(anyone else singing the C + C Music Factory song now? No? You don’t know the 1991 hit? You weren’t even born yet in 1991? Oh, ok, well YouTube it. ahhh the 90’s!)

Ok, here’s the list of things that convinced me that BR Myers must be stalking me should be my new best friend.

References to Dirty Dancing & Grease – two of my all time favourite movies. Nice!

A reference to St. Anthony – I grew up in a super religious family, and I happen to be someone who loses stuff often. And St. Anthony is the Patron Saint of lost things… so as you can imagine I was encouraged to pray to Saint Anthony A LOT growing up.

Having the main character show up for camp without any training to find out that she’s on a boys cabin. – My first thought as I was reading this was “wait, why is this girl showing up the same day as the campers? When was staff training? Why didn’t she attend any kind of orientation or training?

Then I remembered that 15 years ago I was hired two days before camp started (because fortunately for me a spot opened up at the last minute) I arrived the day before the campers did and found out that I would be on a boys cabin (because the cabins had already been made up, and I was replacing a male counsellor)

I also remember feeling overwhelmed – little boys are like aliens to an 18 year old girl with no younger siblings. At one point they were sitting in a circle, playing “the punching game” where they would punch each other in the arm as hard as they could… I pleaded with them to stop, and panicked when they wouldn’t. Finally I had to revert to saying something like “hey look, a thing… let’s go investigate…” to distract them.
Problem solving at its finest, friends.
(I’m happy to report that I’ve improved my technique over the years)

When Jesse is put in a boys cabin because of her gender neutral name. – Sigh, I can not even count the number of times when people have said to me “Patti eh? I have an uncle named Paddy.” To which I have always replied “… neat. Different spelling though.”

I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in Cape Breton.

(Side note: Before I got married and changed my last name, I was a McDonald, people would meet me and if they didn’t have an uncle Paddy, they would say [after the obvious question of “who’s yer faadder? – which is father, for those of you who don’t speak Cape Breatonease*] “Oh, Paddy MacDonald… that’s a good Irish name!!”
Ummm…. McDonald is Scottish, but I see where you’re going with it. Although I do have some Irish roots too.. Sometimes I’d just smile and nod.)

Annnnyway…. back to the point.
My second summer at camp, I was psyched because I would actually get to attend training session -then during announcements when we found out our cabin assignments for the week, another gal with a gender neutral name, Jaime (who I happened to be sitting next to) and I heard our names read as part of the boys cabin.

Now, being a counsellor to 8-10 year old boys is not a big deal… but sharing a cabin with a bunch of male counsellors during staff training… no thank you.
Fortunately we were able to sort it out and get moved into a girls cabin right away.

Jesse’s birthday is in September – samesies!!

 Things that made me go huh… wait, what?

Ok as I was reading this super cute book, I had to force myself to push past a lot of the sketchy stuff- that as a camp director, had me sort of freaking out (yes, I recognize that it’s fiction, but it’s hard to get past some of this stuff guys)

Reminder – lots of spoilers!

Putting a brand new counsellor in a cabin by herself without any support. – I guess to be fair, it seemed that all of the counsellors were in cabins by themselves, but that is sort of wonky too. It’s just unusual. Isn’t it? Am I wrong here? Do other camps do that?

Jesse was alone with campers… a lot. – I get it, it’s fiction. But man, this stressed me out. The number one rule of protecting yourself (and your camp) from allegations is to never, ever, under any circumstances be alone with a camper. AND  the best way to protect your campers from potential harm (like physical assault… grabbing a fistful of a kids hair to stop them from running away from you is JUST not ok Jesse!!!!!) is to have a strict rule of never letting staff be alone with campers.

I get super stressed out when books, movies, or any other type of camp fiction has counsellors interacting with campers alone. It’s just not ok. Even in fiction land.
And it’s SUPER not ok in real life.

Jesse slept in her underwear. – You guys. This is an actual conversation I have with my staff every year during training session. WEAR PANTS AT CAMP.
That’s an actual rule. At camp, we wear pants. And it’s for moments exactly like the one described in the book. Sigh.
There are plenty of pj bottoms and shorts that will keep you cool AND covered on hot summer nights- there is never an excuse to not have pants on when you’re at camp. I’ll stop now before I start ranting. 

She made out with a camper?!??!?!?????? – ok, I’m not 100% sure what this person’s role at camp was, it’s not that clear. It SEEMED like he may have been a camper. An LIT maybe? (leader in training) Although LIT’S are STILL campers. Maybe a volunteer? That still wouldn’t have been ok at my camp, but some camps have different rules about volunteers.

Either way, it creeped me out. I mean, I guess she didn’t know it at the time. But still. If he was a camper, than she can be not only fired, but fined or arrested for that!!! Position of authority, etc. etc.
Yikes.

The camp director was completely oblivious – I mean, ok. I’m bad with names. Like, really bad. But I feel like this person had even me beat. ALSO the conversation about the pants thing would have gone VERY differently.

Kamp Krystal Lake – Not one reference to Friday the 13th. Not one. I mean, if you’re going to name your camp “Kamp Krystal Lake” you should at least throw in a Jason joke – maybe there was a copyright issue, who knows.

So. Much. Boy craziness. – Some of it was cute, and I was going “yes, I remember that feeling”. I mean, we all know that campmances exist to some degree… but having the lead character be so boy crazy sort of bummed me out sometimes, because it just played into the (inaccurate) portrayal of summer camp staff as hormone driven sex maniacs.

Womp womp.

Things that made me go “YES!”

Some of my favourite characters were her little group of “hellions” – I always had a soft spot for the “difficult” campers too. I just knew that with some positive attention Spenser would come around.

And the twins, oh my goodness. I freakin loved them – do you know what I loved most about them? That there’s no moral or lesson to be taught by Duff being Deaf, it’s just a part of who he is, like someone having blond hair, or being left handed. That was very cool.
I appreciated that BR Myers included diversity without exploiting it, she just normalized it, as it should be.
There was a little bit of drama around the brothers and a girl, but I really liked the realistic way it was dealt with.

Encouraging campers to step out of their comfort zone. That’s what camp’s all about isn’t it? Creating a safe space for campers to try new things, feel a sense of mastery, gain confidence, and have fun. I was so proud of Spencer – and Jesse by the end of the book (although I still question some of her choices… I just… sigh… wear pants Jesse… wear pants.)

Final Thoughts

Although this book sort of reads as a “what not to do” for camp counsellors,  I still thought it was cute and a fun read. Check it out and tell me what you think in the comment section below. Also, feel free to suggest other camp related books.

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