Title: Camp So-and-So
Author: Mary McCoy
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5
The letters went out in mid-February. Each letter invited its recipient to spend a week at Camp So-and-So, a lakeside retreat for girls nestled high in the Starveling Mountains. Each letter came with a glossy brochure with photographs of young women climbing rocks, performing Shakespearean theatre under the stars, and spiking volleyballs. Each letter was signed in ink by the famed and reclusive businessman and philanthropist, Inge F. Yancey IV.
By the end of the month, twenty-five applications had been completed, signed, and mailed to a post office box in an obscure Appalachian town.
Had any of these girls tried to follow the directions in the brochure and visit the camp for themselves on that day in February, they would have discovered that there was no such town and no such mountain and that no one within a fifty-mile radius had ever heard of Camp So-and-So.
I picked this up (from the library this time; my wallet was crying as if its heart would break, so I was a good girl and borrowed instead of bought) after seeing a review of the novel on Kirkus (or maybe it was SLJ; I don’t really remember). It sounded like just my kind of book: creepy, ever so slightly off, quirky, and about cunning, resourceful girls––and of course, as per blog theme, diverse. Well, it certainly was those things.
Camp So-and-So follows five cabins full of girls as they arrive for a weeklong camping experience––Cabin 1 is participating in a competition against the fancy camp across the lake in order to live there next year, Cabin 2 is running from a killer in the woods, who may be a vengeful former camper, Cabin 3 is made up of adventurous heroes who, upon reading a prophecy, immediately head off to fulfill it. Cabin 4 finds their soulmates, but there’s something not quite right about them, and Cabin 5––well, Cabin 5 falls down a pit and is subsequently cut off from the world by a thick wall of bramble, and it may already be too late for them.
This reminded me of Beauty Queens in some ways––but less tropical island, more Appalachian wilderness, less evil corporations, more chaotic neutral beings (and an evil corporation, but that’s a redundancy). Its cast of characters is fairly diverse (not necessarily as diverse as I would have liked, but I can’t say that it wasn’t), and the diversity is woven very seamlessly into the plot itself––it’s not left unaddressed, but the main thrust of the novel is still horror/thriller/mystery.
Camp So-and-So was also quite atmospheric, which is something I generally enjoy in a novel. But ultimately, my low(ish) rating comes down to this: it’s a very scattered novel. Sometimes, large casts of characters work––they may start off confusing, but you ultimately pick up who is who in due time, and it’s fine. We move on. But here, even towards the very end of the novel, I was having trouble telling minor characters apart, and at a certain point, it just got incredibly frustrating––and I generally pride myself on having a good memory.
The ending was also underwhelming. Pieces started falling into place much to late to do anything useful with them, in large part because the novel seemed too invested in sustaining its own strangeness and mystery. Things happened more through convenience and less through cunning, and the problem at the heart of the novel was not actually solved, and I finished the novel asking myself why I’d read it in the first place, because if it was just for it strangeness, there are other books that I could have read.
Overall, kind of underwhelming, but not bad for a first book back into the reviewing game.