Book Review

Camp by L.C. Rosen

From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.

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?

Goodreads

Camp is a delightful and ridiculous book about a queer summer camp where kids can live their best and horniest lives. We should all be so lucky as to attend Camp Outland, where participants and counselors can thrive in a safe and supportive environment.

The plot of this book hinges on an objectively terrible idea: Randy remakes himself into butch gay guy Del in order to woo “masc4masc” hunk Hudson. I thought it would be a simple “don’t change yourself for someone, you’ll realize they aren’t worth it!” story, so I was pleasantly surprised when Rosen took a more nuanced approach. Randy discovers he likes some of the more athletic events that he joins for Hudson, and it turns out he had really good taste in crushing on the camp hottie all these years. However, he has to lose some essential pieces of himself (theater class, Unicorn Trampocalypse nail polish) along the way, which is increasingly difficult to manage.

While Randy learns what it means to expand one’s interests while remaining true to yourself (and others), Hudson confronts his internalized homophobia. I really liked his character; an encouraging and kind dude whose parents really did a number on him. Even within a utopia like their summer camp, it felt realistic that people would still have issues to work through.

Of course, a plot about a boy pretending to be someone else depends upon a fundamental suspension of disbelief – Hudson doesn’t recognize a fellow camp attender even though literally everyone else does, and the entire camp (even adults!!) go along with Randy’s plot to pretend that he is new. Ridiculous! But so much fun.

Perhaps even more than the romance, Randy’s relationships with his besties deserve a shout out. George (emotive Middle Eastern bear-to-be) and Ashleigh (goth-lite demisexual lesbian) are simultaneously annoyed and impressed with Randy’s plan. As much as they exist to support and conflict with Randy’s narrative, they each get subplots and romances of their own. I would 100% read another book from one of their perspectives.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out how refreshingly sex-positive this book is. The teens are panting after each other, and rather than panicking about it, the counselors make sure the resources for safe sex are readily available.

I had such a fun time reading this book, and L.C. Rosen has become one of my must-read authors!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Find more books nominated for Lambda Literary Awards reviewed here!

2 comments on “Camp by L.C. Rosen

  1. Pingback: 2021 Lambda Literary Awards – Roar Cat Reads

  2. Pingback: 10 Underrated LGBTQ+ Books – Roar Cat Reads

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