An anxious boy and a grieving girl on the cusp of adolescence find nascent love at Camp Rolling Hills, a summer camp steeped in its own mythology and culture.
The book features the two worst nicknames for protagonists in recent memory. Slimey, age 12, has been going to Camp Rolling Hills since she was a little girl, but it’s Smelly’s first summer. Smelly, who suffers from anxiety and gains confidence over the course of the novel, is there because his parents need time to work out their marriage difficulties. Slimey, who works hard to hide her pain, is still heartbroken over the death of her father. This slice-of-summer novel is overpopulated, with six characters in the boys’ bunk and six in the girls’ plus two counselors, and readers may have trouble keeping track of who’s who. With all these characters, it’s a shame it’s not more obviously diverse, with one Yiddish-spouting Asian boy and another with an Afro (but white skin in the thumbnail guide to the characters in the frontmatter). It’s told from alternating third-person perspectives, Slimey’s and Smelly’s, augmented by funnily realistic letters home from other campers. The book celebrates summer camp as a safe place for children to reinvent themselves, to experiment and be more daring than they might otherwise be.
The author’s love for camp shines through, and although this novel will likely have a narrow appeal, it’s a strong choice for first-time campers and for those who find camp and its rituals delightful. (Fiction. 8-12)