Author: L.C. Rosen
Rating: 4/5 stars
Release date: May 28th 2020
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 don’t think I’ve ever picked up a queer novel in my life. I’ve definitely come across queer characters in various novels, but I’ve never read a book that was centred solely on the LGBTQ+ community, much less with a premise that’s entirely focused on a queer space (in this case, a queer summer camp)! That said, the characters and rep in this novel were so refreshing! The novel is super short and fast-paced, but being someone who’s not too familiar with the themes of the LGBTQ+ community, I learned a lot.
I have to admit, the premise of the novel didn’t sound too enticing when I first read the blurb. Summer camps aren’t exactly my thing, and the romance sounded way too cheesy for me, but I thought I’d give it a shot because I’ve also heard amazing things about the author’s voice in his stories.
I’m so glad I was wrong about the premise. Camp Outland sounds like an absolute dream. Spending a summer in a camp where you can just be yourself and hang out with wonderful people, participate in theatre and share stories at night together in a cabin sounds absolutely amazing. The stories and conversations shared between all the characters in the novel were all so heartbreaking, but important nonetheless
This book delves into the exploitation of toxic masculinity, queer stereotypes, and even the discrimination that arises from within the people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. This book made me so angry and sad and frustrated, but it also made my heart swell with happiness. I ached for Randy (who went with the name ‘Del’ for the most part of the novel). Just reading about how he felt the need to change a crucial part of his identity for a crush was so painful and sad. In contrast, Randy’s friends were a delight to read about. Every character was absolutely loveable! They were brash and disappointed by Randy’s decisions, yet they always tried their best to support him whenever needed. I really appreciate the sexual transparency of each character and how distinct their voices were, which was a huge contrast to the fake shell that randy was hiding under throughout the majority of the novel.
The only reason why I docked down a star was because some parts of the novel were a little predictable. The romance was indeed cheesy, and I did not particularly like Hudson. He said a lot of nasty things, and though there were crucial reasons as to why he said them and made up for his actions, I’m still aggravated by his behaviour. Nonetheless, I was still rooting for Randy, even though his plan was nothing short of absurd.
That said though, none of it undermined the concepts highlighted in the novel, which are of gender conformities, toxic masculinity, and ultimately being unapologetic for being yourself. I was mostly excited to read about the side characters in the novel who were having a blast being themselves and doing what they love to do with the limited time they have at the camp. At the end of the day, I was just sad to read about how Randy wanted so badly to give up what made him feel happy and free for someone else. It’s just so not worth it 😦
One last thing that I thought that was worth mentioning was the promotion of safe sex in the novel! There was a normalcy within the premise where necessities were provided just in case anyone wanted to have safe and consensual sex in the camp, which is a big YES from me. I just love the positivity and support of the camp so much.
If you’re looking to read and learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, Camp has it all! It’s light, enjoyable, important, meaningful, and heartwarming. Definitely recommend picking this one up ASAP!
If you’ve read this book, please let me know your thoughts! Otherwise, thank you so much for reading my review! I also wanted to thank Penguin Teen Australia for sending me a copy of Camp in exchange for an honest review!
If you’re interested in buying Camp, you can click here to shop the book at Book Depository. I receive a small commission if you use the link! 🙂