Five teens work on their mental health during four weeks at a wilderness-therapy camp.
Each teen speaks in this novel, revealing his or her individual issues: Stella has anger-management problems and depression; Clarisa has OCD; Andrew suffers from an eating disorder; Mason is a narcissist; and Ben is dissociative—his part of the narration is formatted as a movie script. At Camp Ugunduzi, a pricey therapy camp, the five teens (evidently white save for Asian Clarisa) will hike, meditate, and engage in group and solo talk therapy. While friendships form and romance blossoms among the campers as they create a Safe Space cabin, they’re also working toward progress and dealing with setbacks. Andrew loses it when he gains weight. Clarisa and Ben’s romance hits the rocks. Clarisa and Stella fight when Stella deals her some hard truths. Yet when tragedy (undescribed in the text) occurs, the group draws together to support each other, revealing just how far they’ve come. First-time novelist Yu does a good job of presenting the therapy process, capturing the words therapists use and realistically describing the uncertain arc of recovery. But choosing to stage the tragedy off-page mutes its impact, and the plethora of voices makes it hard to connect with all the characters.
Though not perfect, moving and of interest to teens experiencing similar stresses. (Fiction. 14-16)