CAMP by Elaine Wolf Reviewed by Meagan Stephens

By: Elaine Wolf
Publisher: Sky Pony Express
June 15, 2012
Ages 13+

Remember when we were in middle school and we learned not to judge a book by its cover? I’m so glad I did when I was looking for a new book to read on Amazon’s New Release list. I was hooked when I saw the cover of Elaine Wolf’s CAMP. “Every secret has a price,” it teased.

CAMP follows fourteen-year-old Amy Becker, a freshman in high school, as she goes to sleepaway camp for the first time despite her adamant refusals. Once there, she encounters inconceivable hostility and must learn to (and learn how to) overcome Rory’s unrelenting bullying. CAMP’s writer uses foreshadowing at the end of nearly every section and chapter not only to set the stage, but to prompt the reader to think about what might possibly come of a particular scene which truly engages the reader.

At home, Amy gives all her love to her younger brother Charlie who is autistic, while never truly receiving love from her parents. Her mother is unjustifiably harsh to both children. Amy is constantly punished for sticking up for her brother. She is consistently rejected by her mother. Perhaps her mother’s German-immigrant background has something to do with it? All Amy knows is that something happened in her mother’s past that made her the way she is now, that Amy is undeserving of her mother’s love, and that above all else, Amy hates her mother and wishes her mother would die. Amy is pressured with her mother’s rules and ways to be perfect. It seems that Amy becomes a passive recipient of her mother’s harsh words, not knowing how else to deal with it.

At camp, Amy realizes that Rory, the leader of the senior campers, will be trouble. Only Amy doesn’t yet realize how much trouble. As I watched Amy be the brunt of Rory’s jokes and taunts, I yearned for someone to speak up. How could her fellow cabin-mates sit idly? So placidly? And then the night of her “initiation” comes. I cried. I mean, ugly cried. And those girls just walked away – did they really think that would stop Rory?

The initiation scene speaks volumes of our stance on bullying. We recognize it, we raise awareness of it, but do we DO anything about it? The girls who left knew Rory was doing something wrong. But they left. I was so hurt.

That’s when I realized how involved in Amy’s story I was. There’s nothing I want more than for a book to draw me into the character’s world and make me forget about my own. I was a fly on the wall at every step of Amy’s journey. I truly cared for her.

I think that’s why I was so shocked and hurt by an unexpected turn in the story. What really hurt was learning the price for uncovering the secret. Enter the ugly sobs again. This time, I wasn’t angry only for Amy, I was angry at the author for the turn of events.

Looking back, I understand and even appreciate Elaine’s choices in telling Amy’s story. I was also pleased with the way the reader learns the secret – it becomes painstakingly clear that Camp Takawanda was a completely necessary experience for Amy. It’s just sad that this experience happened to come with such bullying pain and humiliation. The ultimate resolution of the novel was yet another turn I never saw coming – but this one left me with a tear of happiness.

Bullying is such a hot topic. I give praise to Elaine for weaving such a serious issue into a story that teens will relate to, understand, and devour. I refused to stop reading until I had finished.

I will gladly give Ms. Wolf the pulpit from which she may speak her anti-bullying message. I am very much looking forward to reading Danny’s Mom in November 2012.

Want to read CAMP now? Enter below to win a copy!
1. Giveaway will run from August 8 to 11:59, August 15.
2. Must be 13 or older to enter.

Meagan Stephens is a lifetime Nerdy Book Club Member. She has been reading and writing and telling stories since she was five, and owes much of her passion to her Papa. In fact, she’d rather be reading poolside than actually be IN the pool. Meagan taught college-level composition and is working on her Master’s of Education. She will be teaching high school English this fall. She loves teen lit with a passion and lives (yes, lives) to read. (Hello – Nerdy!)
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