When a skillful (but lonely) con artist meets up with a clever (but friendless) trickster at summer camp, the outcome is sure to leave other campers suffering misfortune.
Archie Drake’s starting his fourth summer at the woefully run-down Camp Shady Brook, cleverly misguiding other campers into thinking he’s rich—very far from the truth. But the misperceptions help him with his cons, aided by Oliver, a counselor-in-training. And sometimes, Archie even rewards some of the other, poorer campers with bits of his payout, helpfully assuaging his underactive conscience. Vivian Cheng is new to Shady Brook, but she’s there because of a scam she participated in at school that’s left her parents feeling little trust in her. Under Archie’s reluctant tutelage, she readily learns the tricks of the con trade while avoiding the attention of the camp director, the evil “Miss Hiss.” But after the pair challenge each other to con two undeserving campers, the situation quickly spirals out of control, and both begin to experience the hurtful consequences of their acts. Writing alternately in tightly focused third-person from the two protagonists’ points of view, Malone infuses into each enough believable personality to carry the story along to its satisfying conclusion. Vivian’s name suggests she’s Chinese-American, but Archie (and most of the rest of the kids) seems to be default white.
A summer-camp story that’s just right for summer reading. (Fiction. 9-12)