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Gone Camping: Novels Set At Summer Camp

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Summer camp.  For many teens, those two words evoke all sorts of powerful memories and emotions.  As someone who attended and later worked at a few different kinds of summer camps, I too associate summertime with that special otherworld of camp life.  Whether it’s an academic summer program on an unfamiliar college campus, an wilderness adventure in the woods, or some other uniquely themed summer-only community experience, camp life often seems to be an escape from teens’ everyday lives.

Camp can be the rare place where you suddenly fit in and find others who share your passions.  Camp can be a dependable community where you feel the freedom to be a different–and perhaps more authentic–version of yourself.  Camp can also be the time and place when you discover new interests or new aspects of your identity.  Like all tightly knit and highly organized communities, camp can also be a place that reinforces certain expectations or ideals, making it a trap rather than an escape.  In all cases, summer camp also seems to be one of the best settings for diverse and strong coming of age tales.  Just check out a few of the fabulous young adult novels set at summer camp!

the summer i wasn't meThe Summer I Wasn’t Me – Jessica Verdi

Lexi will do almost anything to maintain her relationship with her mother, especially since her dad’s recent death.  But when she figures out that Lexi’s in love with a girl, her mom plunges even deeper into depression and anxiety.  Desperate to preserve her family, Lexi agrees to attend New Horizons, a Christian summer camp that promises to teach her how to fight off her SSA–same sex attraction. Lexi’s determined to change–but she wasn’t counting on meeting Carolyn.

Wildlife – Fiona Wood (2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

wildlifeSince her aunt used her as a model in local billboard, Sibylla’s fairly mediocre social life has started to shift in unexpected ways.  Suddenly, she’s not entirely sure what to expect from the upcoming wilderness term.  Handsome Ben kissed her at a party over the holidays but hasn’t said much since and her longtime best friend Holly seems intensely invested in Sib & Ben’s potential romance.  Meanwhile, new girl Lou simply wants to muddle through this strange first term without having to discuss her dead boyfriend or her still crushing grief.  But in this unfamiliar environment, relationships of all kinds undergo unforeseen transformations.

LumberjanesLumberjanes Vol. 1 – Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, & Shannon Watters

Spending the summer at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady-Types is no picnic.  Between the three-eyed foxes, sea monster, and strange riddles in secret caves, the Lumberjanes Scouts’ skills, bravery, and daring will be put to the test.  Thankfully, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley have each other and together, they’re determined to have fun–and survive–the summer.

The second volume of this delightful series is set to be released in October 2015! 

Nothing But The Truth (And A Few White Lies) – Justina Chen

nothing but the truthPatricia Yi-Phen Ho’s sophomore year of high school is not ending on a high note. While her friends are partying the night away at the final dance, Patty is having her future told through her bellybutton by a Chinese fortune-teller after yet another lecture on her many failures as a good daughter. And then, her mom decides to ruin her summer too—by sending her to Math Camp at Stanford. But while Patty’s never really felt like she fit in anywhere—too white to fit in with local Taiwanese community and yet not white enough to blend in with her other friends—at camp, her world flips upside down and Patty’s starting to realize that perhaps fitting in is highly overrated.

empress of the worldEmpress of the World – Sara Ryan (2002 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults)

Nicola Lanscaster isn’t sure what to expect when she arrives at the Siegel Summer Institute for Gifted Youth.  She hoped to decide whether or not she wants to pursue a career in archeology but Nic had no idea that instead she would find herself questioning her whole identity.  She falls in with a quirky group of friends–including dancer Battle Hall Davies.  Nic and Battle quickly become inseparable friends and Nic is surprised and confused to finds herself increasingly attracted to the vibrant Battle.  As their relationship shifts into a tentative romance, Nic find that love resists all her attempts at calm logic and scientific detachment.

Things I Can’t Forget – Miranda Kenneally

things i can't forgetKate couldn’t wait to spend her last summer before college with her best friend Emily working as a counselor at Cumberland Creek, the Christian summer camp they’ve attended together since childhood.  But when Emily’s parents find out she had an abortion earlier that spring, they kick her out and she is disinvited from Cumberland Creek.  Now on her own, Kate encounters lifeguard Matt, the first boy she ever kissed who has returned to camp looking all grown up.  But between her continued guilt about helping Emily get an abortion and her shame about her increasing attraction to Matt, Kate begins to discover that life and faith are much more complicated than she’d thought.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste and The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

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I am a librarian at an independent girls' school in the DC-Metro area. I am a compulsive baker, book addict, and genre fiction fan with passion for social justice. Find me on Twitter as @onesmartcupcake.

One Comment

  1. Yes! Lumberjanes is one of my new favorites! This whole list is making me super nostalgic for my days at camp…

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