Gabe is torn between his enthusiasm for a summer residential program for gifted children and his fear that his new, cool stepbrother-to-be will find out he's a nerd.
Just his age, 11, Zack seems like the ideal sibling to Gabe, who has always wanted one. But surfer-boy Zack really doesn't like nerds. All the things Gabe enjoys—math team, reading and the gifted program—Zack describes as weird. Luckily, sleep-away camp impresses him. Episodic chapters combine camp scenes, letters home and a growing chart of the things Gabe's done he can tell Zack about and the geeky details that he can't. The third-person narration describes the fun of a camp where students write poetry, solve problems and investigate lice with microscopes and also swim, kayak, play sports and compete in a Color War. While Gabe is trying to present six weeks of camp activities in the best light for Zack, he’s also choosing them in order to avoid fellow-camper Amanda, a girl who seems to be stalking him but turns out to be someone who could be a friend. The author sets up the thematic conflict believably, but the contrast between Gabe’s enjoyment and his social fears gets tiresome. The protesting goes on too long, the resolution is pat and the author’s hand and purpose seems evident.
This celebration of summer camp and geekiness tries too hard. (Fiction. 9-12)