Camp by Lev A.C. Rosen
Published by: Penguin
Released: 28th May 2020
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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?
Randy Kapplehoff spends his summers at Camp Outland, a camp for LGBTQ+ teens. Camp Outland is where he met his best friends, its where he found his love for acting and musical and it’s where he fell for the gorgeous Hudson. However, Hudson is only into straight-acting guys and hardly knows Randy exists. This year, though, Randy is determined to make Hudson fall for him, even if it means giving up everything her loves. He’s reinvented himself as Del, masculine and on the market. As he grows closer to Hudson, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change and sacrifice for love and will Hudson really like the real him?
Well..this was the queer story that I never knew I needed! A story based in a Camp for LGBTQ+ teens? Erm yes please! Camp just had me longing for summer and it did make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which is definitely needed in todays current climate. I feel that this is the book that every teen that identifies as LGBTQ+ needs to read, honestly it will make them feel like they are less alone, and may even encourage them to start living how they want to live.
Camp is very sex positive, so do go into it expecting a lot of sex talk and scenes. Just like Lev’s other YA novel Jack of Hearts, it focuses on LGBT sex primarily. There are a few sex scenes within Camp that are pretty full on, but I wasn’t put off by this. I feel that it’s great to have stuff like this within the story, as it will open up people’s minds to sex within the LGBTQ+ communities, as this is something that is often glossed over or not spoken about at all. Sex is a natural thing, even within these communities and should most definitely be mentioned a lot more, especially in YA. Yet again I commend Rosen for this positive approach to sex in the LGBT community.
Camp covers other topics such as toxic masculinity, gender, masc4mac and femmephobia, the two latters being something that I was completely unaware of. Throughout the book we see how Randy is struggling with trying to be someone he’s not, just to impress Hudson who is primarily someone who is masc4masc. In doing this, yes, he impresses Hudson, but he pushes himself further away from his friends who just want him to be himself. This does somewhat go into the trope of changing yourself just for love. However, once you get into the mind of Hudson and his reasons for acting that way, you can understand why he is like that. You could say that these topics within the book could spark some debates, and this is healthy seeing as the book takes a considerate approach that makes you understand all sides of the said issues.
Camp was full of diversity and fabulous characters that will have you smiling until your cheeks hurt. As this was set in a camp for queer teens you had gay characters, lesbian characters, bi characters, trans characters, non binary and even an aco/aro character, but you also had own voices characters within it, which made the diversity stick out even more to me. With regards to the characters, there wasn’t a single one I didn’t like (I even warmed up to Hudson once I got to know more of his backstory). Each character was beautifully written and despite some only being secondary, I still feel like I got to know them just as well as the mains. All characters I think will be relatable to some, especially if you are LGBTQ+, and may stick with you long after you turn the last page. If I had to choose a favourite group of characters I would go with Ashleigh, George and Paz, they just melted my heart and their friendship was just top notch.
Camp was a fabulous, feel good, queer romcom that you definitely need in your life. The sex positivity, the amazing characters and the deconstruction of toxic masculinity within the book will certainly make you want to read on, and you will end up falling in love with Camp Outland…trust me.