(I wish this review was better timed, as this book takes place in the summer and was in fact published in May, but I love camp books year-round and I hope some of you do too.)
Ah, camp books. How I love you!
Sam's best friend Mal is revolting head over disgusting heels in love for the first time. Loathe to spend her summer playing third wheel to Malomark (her name for them - ha!), she applies to be a CIT (that's counselor-in-training) at Whispering Pines Camp. She promises Mel that she'll make her tons of their trademark video messages to one another, and soon enough she's off for her first summer at camp ever.
When she arrives at Whispering Pines she learns a few important things: she's the only CIT who's never been a Whispering Pines camper OR a camper at all; there's a really hot fellow CIT named Hunter, who begins flirting with her almost immediately; her mother and the camp director seem uncomfortably (to Sam) attracted to one another; and for some reason, the camp director's queen bee CIT daughter, Ashley, seems to develop an instant dislike for her. That could have something to do with the fact that Sam receives the most coveted CIT post: she'll be spending her summer working with Ashley's sister, Alexis.
If nothing else, it will certainly make for an interesting summer.
Sam makes fast friends with three fellow CITs who are also on Ashley's bad side, and those friendships help her forget - at least for brief periods of time - that she's getting no video messages from Mal. That hottie Hunter seems to be more than a bit of a player. That Ashley seems determined to ruin Sam's summer and reputation at any cost.
I love Sam. She's so imperfect. What gives Ashley's vendetta against her an extra dramatic edge is that Sam is more than a bit of a mess. She's too much of a people pleaser. She can be incredibly wishy-washy. She's completely blind to the player-ness of Hunter (at least for awhile). And, because she's a camp virgin, she has a whole lot to learn.
I think everyone's experienced "in the trenches" friendships. Friendships that develop fast and hard because you're thrown together in some way - in the cast of a play, for example, or on the same dorm floor at college. I think it's hard to portray those friendships realistically, because sometimes, even in real life, they feel a little unrealistic. They happen so quickly. Sometimes you don't have that much in common, or maybe you wouldn't be friends if you met anywhere else. It's because of the circumstances that you bond, and after that bond forms, it doesn't much matter how alike you are. You've become alike.
Calonita does an excellent job of making Sam's camp friendships realistic. Even though I never went to camp, I felt a familiar pang while reading about their conversations and their pranks and their arguments because that's the kind of relationships I had with my high school theatre friends. I'm guessing some of my pang was that I was dying to go to camp when I was younger, despite the fact that I hate campING, but no one really did that where I grew up. I think I was mostly dying to jump into a camp book rather than attend actual camp. But part of me will always wonder what would have been if I had been able to go to sleepaway camp, and that part of me will continue to seek out books that take place there. This? Is a good one.Buy this book from an independent bookstore!