“Their place is cabin chore charts and mealtime etiquette and campfire skits. The thorny reality-celebrities, digital consciousness transfers, genetically engineered bodies-has to exist outside of their understanding for the summer to make sense”
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an E-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: California Coldblood books
Release date: 15th November 2022
Representation: black side character, gay male side character.
Trigger warnings: Child death, cloning, murder mention, Sexual assault, bullying, animal death, non-consensual medication administration, memory alteration, alcohol, panic attacks.
Summary: Phoenix summer camp is no different from any of the summer camps across the country-children play, camp out, roast s’mores and sing campfire songs. Oh, except for the fact that every child there isn’t really a child. They’re the consciousness of a group of adults, who pay in the millions to spend one last summer as a care-free kid. Sam is a college kid who’s been invited to work as a camp counsellor for the summer, and she’s struggling to come to terms with the fact that when it ends all these kids will go back to their adult bodies-to their husbands, to their wives, and-in the case of Hugo baker-to being on trial for murder.
At a summer camp like no other, the ghost of Danny McGee will haunt readers in the best way for weeks to come.
I love speculative fiction that poses ethical questions. For fans of black mirror, this book will be a perfect read. The idea and concept behind it is one that I loved, and it was executed very well. It wasn’t perfect- I found a few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but not enough that it ruined the story. At points the plot and characters were messy-but in a way it added to the summer camp feel. Kids are messy, camp is messy, and the entire book had the feeling of being sat around a smoky campfire covered in dirt, exhausted and ready for bed.
Sam was an okay character-i didn’t hate her but i didn’t love her. She was well written and realistic, she just didn’t provoke strong feelings in me either way. Weirdly, it wasn’t hard to read her POV despite this. She was doing so much and slowly learning so much that I craved her POV most out of the two offered-the other being a child at the camp.
The plot centred around the existence of the camp, and for all intents and purposes plays through like a normal summer camp would. There’s no high action, just kids being kids-going on adventures and making up ghost stories-but it’s driven by the reality of what the camp is. It makes us face the fact that these kids aren’t just kids-they have lives outside of camp. They’re celebrities, adults, and one of the campers is even an accused murderer. This really shows through in Sam’s POV, as we watch her struggle to wrap her head around the idea of it all. I loved watching her try to treat them as children, even though she knew the truth. If I gave you a child to babysit, and you knew they were going to grow up to kill people, how would you handle it?
I would have loved more exploration about what happened after camp-especially Linda-one of the POV’s-reaction to the things she did over the summer. It would have added an extra layer of depth and furthered the ethical questioning, but I think the point was that the book ends when the summer does. There is no world outside of camp. It worked well at driving this point across.
Its shining glory: The concept carried this book an astonishing amount. It draws you in, and you want-no, need-to know how it ends. What’s really going on? Days later, and I’m still thinking about it.
Its fatal flaw: The pacing isn’t ideal. At times it feels chaotic and like a video on fast-forward, yet at the same time like nothing much happens.
Read this if: You love speculative fiction, and books that offer ethical questions wrapped in summer fun. You don’t mind writing that isn’t perfect, because the plot can carry the story.
Skip this if: You like fiction that draws a clear line between right and wrong and shows it. You don’t like Dual POV. You like books that have a clear beginning, middle and end and wrap a conclusion up with a bow.