Author: L.C. Rosen
Format: Paperback ARC
Genre: Young Adult | Realistic Fiction
Release Date: May 26 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of The Novl through Couchfest 2020. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
For whatever reason, I have a thing for books about camps. I never went to one as a child nor did I ever desire to (outside bathrooms were right on par for me with killer clowns). And the whole outside thing. Do you know what is outside? BUGS. Bugs are outside and they appear and crawl on you and it’s awful. But give it to me in a book setting, and I’m obsessed. So, of course, I was interested in this one – and everyone, this was amazing.
📌 on plot
This is definitely more of an internal instead of external action plot. This book takes place over a couple of weeks at a summer camp, showcasing the emotional journey of our main characters instead of real actions. Our story focuses on Randy who changes much about his look and personality in order to win over his summer camp crush. Gone is the sparkly nail polish in favor for plaid shirts. As the summer goes on and his romance deepens, he has to ask himself who he really is and how much he’s willing to give up for love?
This is a super fast paced novel, but it’s not because it had a lot of plot going on. However, it still has small little plot points that continues it along and makes it so speedy. You’re so wrapped up in the romance, the emotional journey, and more that it will consume you to keep on reading. It still tackles important inner issues and brings that brilliant contemporary romance magic that this genre does so well.
📌 on characters
The characters were brilliant! Each of them brought their own distinct personality and unique perspective to the story – which sometimes can get very lost in a large ensemble cast. These weren’t just characters that were around for background scenery – they were alive in their own way, and they created a fantastic group of characters that I really enjoyed.
Randy/Del is our main character. His internal struggles are relatable in a variety of ways – he’s still a teen, just trying to figure out his place in the world. He makes mistakes, but then he owns it and makes the changes. You see his struggle, and he’s just so easy to root for! I loved reading his story.
Hudson was another interesting main character. He really has a lot of growth within the story, that felt organic and showcased Rosen’s ability with in-depth characterization. There are definitely issues with a lot of his views, and he could be a jerk at times, but I thought the change within him was intriguing and solid as the story progressed. Other characters like George and Ashleigh (who were both breakout stars), were both amazing, and I loved Randy’s friend group.
📌 on theme
This story definitely is a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. There is almost representation on all of the spectrum – from ace to trans to gay to more. There are characters from all around, showcasing all the different identities. If you’re going to read a book during pride, this is a brilliant one to pick up, since it’s a celebration of so many identities.
The story also takes on toxic masculinity and also being yourself. Randy changes so much of himself to cater to a view of what a “man” is supposed to be and to appeal to his crush. It’s a fantastic lesson for teens, since I know I struggled with so many of these same thoughts when I was teen – trying to cater to what the outside world or what I thought the world wanted from me. This is a story to teach yourself that and help appreciate what is truly inside. I loved that and all the lessons that Randy learned along the way.
📌 on writing
I’ll be definitely looking for Rosen’s other books, because I really enjoyed his writing. It’s fun, it’s light, it just brings the happy feels. I felt a kind of lightness in reading it, and it just brought so much joy. When I think of this book, I just feel happy. It brings that wonderful breath of romance and vibrancy of contemporary.
There was only one real complaint that I have for this book. It was just the beginning structure. Immediately, we are introduced to “new” Randy – he’s different in personality and looks and even name. It took us a few chapters to get a glimpse of the old/real Randy. By then, I never really felt the loss that Randy was feeling over his theater life and such, because I didn’t really know that Randy – I just got him in glimpses. I just wanted to know a bit more about that one to really mourn his loss of all the things that he gave up.
This was brilliant – I enjoyed it so much, and it’s easily one of my favorite reads that I read this year. Definitely pick this book up if you’re looking for a feel good read that shows emotional growth and more.
rating: Rapunzel because this book brought such joy and happy feels
representation: Transgender (nonbinary as well as trans character), Gay, Lesbian, Demisexual, PTSD, Black side characters, Middle Eastern side character, m/m romance, f/f romance, Korean-American love interest, Bisexual, ace, and honestly, probably more.
content warnings: Transphobia, Homophobia, Gender dysphoria, sexual content (consensual)
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!