CAMP by L. C. Rosen is a booming celebration of queerness and an nuanced look at young queer people’s struggle with identity told through a super cute romance!
At Camp Outland, a summer camp for LGBTQIA+ teens, 16-year-old Randy Kapplehoff gets to be his authentic self: he wears nail polish, sing show-tunes with friends, and performs in the musical. But this year is different, this year Randy is going to get heartthrob, serial-dater Hudson Aaronson-Lim to be his boyfriend. The problem is that Hudson is a masculine gay guy and only dates other “masc” guys. So Randy decides to ditch his flamboyant mannerisms, forgo the musical, and butch it up to get the guy of his dreams. What could possible go wrong with this plan?!?!?
Honestly, the premise of CAMP worried me because I hate the idea of centering the story on a femme-gay boy who changes who he is in order to get a guy. Luckily, the book had more depth and insights than I anticipated. What unfolds throughout CAMP is a thoughtful exploration of self-betrayal, personal growth, and acceptance related to queer identity. This book sets out to dismantle “masc4masc” culture and toxic masculinity in the gay community and show that you don’t need to confine yourself within limiting stereotypes. What is most important is to be true to yourself!
What I loved most about CAMP is that it is a character-driven novel with a truly diverse cast. The story may center on the relationship between two gay cisgender males, but there is a wide representation of sexualities and gender identities: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual, demisexual, and aromatic just to name a few! As well, the main characters and supporting characters are ethnically diverse. Though at times I found Randy and Hudson tiring, as characters they were still well developed and believable. Most of all I adored the supporting characters! The campers and camp councilors were all given such distinct voices and unique personalities!
I am also happy that CAMP is such a sex-positive book. In a lot of YA, sex is often skirted around or something that happens outside of the actual written words of the text. CAMP takes no shame in depicting and discussing sexual activity, especially gay sex. That said, CAMP is not overrun with smutty sex scenes but does embrace the fact that teens have sex, think about sex, talk about sex and that sex can be an important aspect of a relationship.
My main critique of CAMP is that it wasn’t around when I was a kid! It fills my gay heart to know that queer kids today have books like CAMP that celebrates being queer. CAMP is sweet, cute, funny, touching, sexy and a lovingly inclusive queer YA rom-com! And yes, my sparkly nails are an homage to the iconic Unicorn Trampocalypse nail polish from the book!! : )
** Little, Brown Books for Young Readers provided the book for honest review.
- Title: Camp
- Author: L. C. Rosen
- Published: May 26, 2020 (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
- Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *