Happy September (and happy Labor Day)! In case you haven't noticed, I've been reviewing a great deal of graphic novels lately. However, I just started a new prose novel, and I love it! The only problem is...I haven't finished it, and I obviously cannot review it until I have made sure that it doesn't fall apart halfway through. Thus, I quickly read yet another graphic novel to review today, and I aim to review the other book I am reading either next week or the next. Today, I am reviewing the graphic novel Camp by Kayla Miller (the sequel to Click, which I reviewed two weeks ago).
Like Click, Camp's main character is middle-schooler Olive. In this book, Olive is headed off to summer camp, and one of her friends from school (and from Click), Willow, is accompanying her. Olive is excited to spend two weeks doing fun activities with Willow and new friends, but camp doesn't quite go as planned. Willow struggles with being away from her parents and stuck in a new environment, and she ends up unable (or unwilling) to make friends with the fellow campers, instead preferring to stay by Olive's side at all times. Olive is just as outgoing as she was in Click, however, and as she reaches out to the other campers and starts to have fun, Willow starts to feel left behind (even though other campers are trying to befriend her as well). In turn, Olive starts to get mad at Willow for constantly pulling her away from new friends and new chances to enjoy herself. As Olive and Willow's conflict grows, will either of them be able to enjoy their time at camp? Will their friendship even exist by the time camp is over?
The main issue that Camp aims to deal with is what happens when one friend is ready to introduce others into the group, while the other still prefers the dynamic that the two of them have by themselves. This issue is not new to MG books, but the twist in Camp is that you can actually see the conflict occurring in the present. Readers can watch Willow as she starts to feel left out, and they can observe Olive as she begins to suffer from Willow's increasing anxiety of being left behind. However, the conflict is a bit awkward in the book, as Olive has no intention of actually leaving Willow out. Willow is the one who refuses repeated invitations to join Olive and the others in different activities; just like in Click, the conflict is more a product of the character's own head than it is a product of the behavior of others. My problem with this scenario is that, because the conflict is almost fabricated by Willow, Willow ends up turning into the villain of the story, a girl who intentionally avoids spending time with others in order to make them unhappy. The book does a poor job of exploring why Willow might not want to join these activities: does she think, due to a miscommunication, that they don't want her around? Is she too shy and a bit too overwhelmed to muster up the energy to meet new people? The book seems to imply the second option toward the beginning of the book (Willow begins to feel homesick and has an awkward moment during an icebreaker), but it ends up portraying Willow as a fun-hater who won't just get over herself. I do think that the lesson Olive learns at one point in the book (that it is not her job to keep Willow happy, and that she does not need to make herself miserable doing so) is an important lesson to learn, and I appreciated seeing it. Overall, though, I felt like Olive's feelings got much more attention than Willow's, and what could have been an interesting plot that explored why some people are shy was instead a one-dimensional conflict of good versus evil.
At this point, you're probably wondering: "So why should I even read this book?" The answer is that, despite this flaw, Camp is still a fun and enjoyable read! Like in Click, Olive is still an extremely likable main character. She is friendly to everyone, considerate of others, and always ready to enjoy herself, regardless of what she is doing. Olive is the sort of person everyone wishes they could be, and it is fascinating to see how simple being a likable person is: just be nice and happy! Another character who I really liked is Laura, a camp counselor who is instrumental throughout the story in helping both Olive and Willow think through their feelings. In fact, virtually every character in the book is likable, which leads me into the next thing I like about Camp. Like with Click, author Kayla Miller imbues an infectious joy into Camp. Characters are always smiling, energetic, and ready to enjoy themselves, and the art style is extremely expressive and fun to look at. The story is also filled with all sorts of fun camp activities: characters play in a band, build a Rube Goldberg machine, record videos, and just sit around and enjoy themselves. Even after a sad moment, you'll come away from Camp feeling happy! I also want to mention that, like in Click, Camp does a good job of displaying real-world solutions for its major conflict. Readers can observe characters reaching out to each other, inviting others along or offering compliments, and see that making friends with anyone is really that simple.
Finally, I want to mention one other small detail in Camp that I appreciated. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Willow has food allergies as her mom reminds her that she will have to stop by the nurse's office every day to take her allergy medication. I have seen virtually no representation of people with allergies (which annoys me as a person with many of them) except in Swing It, Sunny, so I was happy to see a character like Willow for me and others to relate to. I also appreciated that no one made a big deal of her allergies or antagonized her for them; there is one moment where camp counselor Laura offers Willow a sunflower-butter sandwich (implying that she is allergic to peanuts), which warmed my heart.
Ultimately, despite the issues with the novel's central conflict, Camp is a heartwarming and completely fun story that will leave readers feeling both enlightened and happy! I recommend it to anyone who has read Click (which I still maintain is fantastic!), and I remain excited for the third book in the series, the upcoming Act! Thanks for reading my long post, and stay tuned for my upcoming review!