Camp by L.C. Rosen – REVIEW

Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.

This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.

But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Penguin.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“I get that feeling I get around him, like I’m filled with stars and can be anything I want”

I requested this book simply because of the gorgeous cover and cheeky tagline, and was not disappointed. Set at a camp for LGBTQIA+ teens, it tells the story of Randy who decides to transform himself into a masc fantasy to win over jock Hudson. The story is heavily influenced by 60s screwball comedy (especially films starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson as evidenced by the names) and it’s easy to imagine a glorious film-version one day. 

“If you can’t enjoy a drag queen, you’re probably a soulless monster.”

The author deconstructs masculinity by exploring the masc/femme spectrum and questioning why masculinity is often associated with being ‘acceptable gay’. One recurring idea is that of theatre and performance, and how so many queer teens have to adopt a role to stay safe in heteronormative society. Hudson’s backstory, in particular, is heartbreaking. Whilst this depressing notion could drag another book down, Camp urges the reader to celebrate their queerness, to challenge gender norms, and to find power in living their truth.

“Safer and happier don’t always go hand in hand. It’s a choice that a lot of us have to make.”

Not only does the story explore the dangers of toxic masculinity but it’s also sex positive. There’s a fascinating article by the author, also included in the book, which talks about the dangerous lack of LGBTQIA+ sex education and how many queer teens resort to porn to explore sex. There’s still a long way to go but continuing to publish books like Camp is one much-needed step forward.

“It’s all nonsense, right? Butch, femme, masc, whatever…it’s meaningless.”

It’s a long-overdue relief that queer teens finally have some representation in their reading material, and I can’t imagine how much a book like this will mean to them – I honestly think every school library should have a copy. Funny, warm, unapologetic, and honest, Camp is the feel-good book of the summer.

(Goodreads | Amazon UK | Book Depository | Hive)

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