HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY STOP OF THE CAMP BLOG TOUR!
An HUGE thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this wonderfully funny and intense book! Thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy and the FFBC for the chance to be part of this blog tour!
Camp by Lev A.C. Rosen
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Release date: May 26th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Conteporary, LGBT, Queer
Randy Kapplehoff loves Camp Outland, a camp for queer kids where he can be himself, with nail polish, rainbow unicorn sheets, surrounded by his friends, doing theater, dancing and acting. But he has this huge crush on Hudson Aaronson-Lim, who is only into masculine guys and doesn’t know he exists.
This year Randy is determined to make Hudson fall in love with him and not just the usual flirt Hudson is famous for. So Randy decides to reinvent himself. Now he’s Del and he’s more masculine, his hair cut, weight lost and he’s ready to give up his passions, theater, dancing, nail polish and so on, to get the boy of his dreams.
But even though his plan seems to work, Randy starts to ask himself how much he’s ready to give up and if Hudson falls in love with him, it’s really love since he’s not himself?
I loved everything about this book, but I’m gonna put some order in my review or I will only rant about it.
I absolutely loved this queer camp. The whole idea of a safe place for queer people, a safe haven where they could be themselves without fearing others’ judgments or worse is fantastic.
I don’t know if a place like that exists, but reading about Camp Outland was like a breath of fresh air. An haven. Amazing.
The cabins, the bonfires, the games, the s’more, the water fight, the color wars, everything was beautiful and, at the same time, educational since there are also history queer classes, where they talked about queer rights and the protests and fights in the past, learning about how queer people were treated in the past and their achievements.
I really loved the author’s writing style. His characters are skillfully written and so realistic. They are alive, well written and well rounded and brimming with life, love and friendship.
The story is told through first person, through Randy’s POV, so the reader can right away connect with him, able to experience his feelings, doubts, joys.
For most of Camp Randy plays a role to win Hudson over and be his boyfriend. His plan means he has to change everything about him, everything that could be seen as feminine and become the perfect butch boyfriend. And, even though he suffers because he’s giving up his passions, he thinks Hudson is worth it.
Randy is a complex main character. He’s funny, sarcastic, sweet, determined. An amazing friend. He’s proud of who he is, he loves himself and his passions, his nail polish, his fans and his theater friends, but at the same time he changes for Hudson, wanting to win him over and then easing him into the real Randy, basically creating a rom-com for the whole camp, where only Hudson doesn’t know anything about it.
Hudson is right away drawn to Randy (as Del) as he’s the type he’s convinced he has to want and desire, the butch boyfriend, interested in sport, with butch clothes and passions.
The reader sees Hudson through Randy’s eyes, this amazing boy able to inspire everyone, convincing them they can be anything they want, they can be special and able to be supportive and proud.
As Randy (and the reader) gets to know him, the real Hudson that becomes more and more complex and layered and through his talking with Randy an internalized homophobia is discovered, because of his parents’ ideas and actions, his relationship with his grandma, his real feelings about being queer.
Hudson’s beliefs are changed throughout the book, thanks to Randy and through talking and self-analysis. I absolutely the way Hudson changes and betters himself, deciding to be more like the himself he wants to be, getting out of his shell, discovering what he likes without fearing others’ judments.
At the same time Randy realizes changing for someone, even temporarily, isn’t worth it and he decided to be sincere and himself, above all when he understand how his acting has hurt his friends.
Randy’s and Hudson’s relationship is sweet, above all when it’s clear they have real feelings for each other and it’s not only sexual and physical attractions.
George and Ashlegh are wonderful and funny characters, George with his fans and jokes and flirt and Ashleigh with her crushes and sarcasm. They are such supportive and amazing friends, ready to be there for Randy and his crazy plan and after. I love this trio. They are unbelievably funny and so sweet.
The other side characters are also amazing, like Brad and his crush for George, Mark and Connie, the counselors, Paz.
One of the things I loved about this book is the queer representation. Randy, George, Brad and Hudson are gay, Ashleigh is demi, Connie is trans, Jordan is non-binary. I also liked that the book talks about sexual exploration and the safety of it, reading about queer people enjoy and discovering themselves, flirting with one other.
It’s pretty rare reading queer sex in book and its normalization (like it should be). I really liked it. Another important thing is the normalization of therapy in the book. Mark talks often of his therapist and the importance of talking and healing.
Camp is a book that, through a cute comedy and amazing characters, critiques the toxic masculinity in the queer community, the whole idea that there is a right way to be gay. That wearing “feminine” clothes or colors, or doing things usually seen as feminine, like wearing makeup, painting your nails, loving unicorns and so on means being a weak stereotype, means being “wrong”.
Through Hudson the reader is able to see him battling his parents’ ideas of being the “right” gay, that, for them (and many others) means being buff, masculine and like certain things, like certain clothes and sports.
Camp is a hymn to be queer and to love oneself. I love the message that it doesn’t exist a “right” or “wrong” way to be queer and the importance of loving and expressing yourself. It’s a lesson Randy already knows (and has to remember, while becoming again to the real Randy) and Hudson has to learn throughout the book and their relationship, through self-analysis and talking through his feelings.
I loved this message and, at the same time, the book is very realistic. Through Connie’s talk with Randy it’s clear that being oneself and proud is the way things should be, BUT in the outside world it’s not so simple and queer people can be in danger, because there’s still so much hate and homophobia in the world.
Camp is for them a safe haven, a place that was created for them. And it’s beautiful. Camp is a love story about being queer, a book about love and friendship, passions and being proud. An haven and the hope people can create and find place like this in the future. It’s beautiful, funny, heartbreaking and unbelievably cute.
It’s like a warm hug, it’s like home.
I love this smell. I love it every summer. It’s the smell of freedom. Not that stupid kayaking-shirtless-in-a-Viagra-commercial freedom. That’s for straight people. This is different. It’s who-cares-if-your-wrists-are-loose freedom.
But safer and happier don’t always go hand in hand. It’s a choice that a lot of us have to make- when to come out, who to come out to.
You’re all at that age when you’re trying on identies anyway, so I don’t know if you understand what it’s like to be told there’s a right and a wrong way to be queer, and the right way looks just like bein straight, yet probably some of you do.
So maybe the equality we’re fighting for isn’t just marriage or the ability of not be fired from our job for being queer- which is still perfectly legal in over twenty-five states, by the way- but the ability to be whoever we want, jeans, skirts, makeup, heels, beards, whatever, and still be treated like anyone else.
Because theather is who we are. Those identities aren’t different costumes we try on- they’re different facets of us, differents bits of truths. And it takes bravery to show those truths to the outside world.
Terrible things happening to you are never an excuse to do them to someone else.
But what I mean is there’s an out and then there’s the sort of out people don’t want you to be.
There are different degrees of out…and you need to stick to the ones that are safe. Now, what’s safe changes with where you are, and who are with.
“So it’s not really hiding” I say “It’s a role. For an audience of two- your parents. And you only have to play it around them. But you’re still you. You have nail polish on underneath your nails, and eye shadow under your lids and the fiercest eye’s cat…they’re just under everything, waiting to come out. Which you can be with me. With me you alway get to be whomever you want to be.”
I pull his arms tight around me and take a deep breath. I can smell the grass and the trees outside, the hairspray and wood of the theather, the sweat of the actors and Hudson, that smell that I’ve given up to name, but I know is him. All of it blends together and I can see a life extending from it in front of me, a future. Freedom, love…no, it’s better than that. It smells like home.
Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.
Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen
CAMP has been optioned by HBO Max to be turned into a feature film for the streaming device. Academy Awards winner Dan Jinks (American Beauty, Milk) will produce through his Dan Jinks Company, and Kit Williamson (creator, director, and star of the Emmy-nominated EastSiders) will write the screenplay.
I absolutely recommend this book. It’s sweet, funny and intense and it will stay with you for a very long time. Check it out on goodreads and here’s some links to online shops:
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of CAMP by Lev A. C. Rosen (US Only)
Starts: May 20th 2020
Ends: June 3rd 2020
So, this is my HUGE review on Camp and if you’re interested in it, if you wanna read it or if you have already, let me know!
There will be another Camp giveaway on my Instagram, if you wanna double your chances to win it!