Book Review

Review: Camp by L. C. Rosen

This was a really cute ‘coming of age’ style story, that doesn’t hold anything back regarding sexuality, attraction, or gender. This is a heartfelt and poignant gay rom com about being who we are.

Camp

 

Title: Camp
Author: L. C. Rosen
Pages: 384
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 28th May 2020

Rating: 4 stars

 
Randy is sixteen and been to Camp Outland every year for the past four years. It’s the only time each summer that he can truly, authentically, be himself, alongside other queer teens his age. It’s a safe space for all and the friendships they make there sustain them in the ‘real’ world.

But this year it’s not Randy, but Del, who will be coming to camp. This year, he won’t be wearing glitter, or make-up, or nail polish, or even taking part in the theatre performance. He’s cut his hair, muscled up and will finally show masc4masc Hudson that he really is his type. Because once Hudson has fallen in love with Del, surely it won’t be so hard for him to fall in love with Randy?

I was really worried, when I started reading this, that all the focus would be on changing who you are to get the person of your dreams. We see this working all the time in straight rom coms, and I was really afraid that it would go unsaid in this book. Instead, Randy/Del is immediately called out by his friends, by his camp counsellors. Some people accept it as someone being more of their true self, which they absolutely should! But Randy’s close friends know that Del is just another part that he is playing.

That then raises some really good questions about how gay men, or people with any sexual preference or gender, are still forced to play to particular stereotypes or roles in order to fit in with the ‘real’ world. But for some people at Camp, it’s a worse betrayal that Randy is taking on this role in a space that is designed for kids like him to just be themselves.

It also leads to the really important issue of stereotypes and bigotry in a space where all sexualities and genders are welcome. People can absolutely have an attraction or preference to one type or another, but if you are excluding one group over another, or displaying masculinity (or anything else) that is toxic – then that’s different. That kind of bigotry can still happen in an LGBTQIA+ community – just look at the not always coherent response to trans men and women. But also that, sometimes, it’s necessary to put on a mask, or personality, for your own safety – it shouldn’t be, but sometimes that’s necessary too.

There was fantastic representation of characters, personalities and preferences across the cast, but the main focus was always on Randy and Hudson. I would have loved more time with Ashleigh and George who, despite being Randy’s best friends and generally supporting act, didn’t quite have things figured out for themselves. In fact, there was a storyline with Ashleigh that I really wanted to know more about and have a better, or at least more detailed, resolution.

There was also some beautiful, and sad, writing about the personal details – of kids coming out and being accepted/not accepted for who they are. There are lots of these details that are so well written and really make you feel for their honest and painful experiences. There’s also sex – no holds-barred, considerate and hot gay sex. It’s well-written and just, honest. The whole novel (and camp) is very sex-positive in a refreshing and open way.

The camp itself sounded fantastic and yes please take me there.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘well I’m not queer myself, will I still get something out of it?’ – absolutely yes. Straight, queer, the story is still one that you will know well, just with different players. I think it’s also an important read even if you are cisgender and straight – about fitting in, the image you choose and the image others choose for you.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Camp by L. C. Rosen

    1. I do love reading fantasy, but it’s such a pleasure to mix in some contemporary YA when it feels like YA has changed so much from what I had to read at the time!

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