Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for CAMP!
Title: Between Burning Worlds
Author: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 24 March 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Synopsis:From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.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?
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Warnings: discussion of homophobia, including acemisia and transmisia; use of homophobic slurs; internalized homophobia; explicit sex scene
I’ll get to the main plot soon, but the first thing I wanted to gush about when it came to this book was that how refreshing it was to have an all-queer cast! Like, the setting of a camp exclusively for queer teens with most of the staff also being queer means it was like a warm embrace to read this book, especially if you are queer yourself. Not that having an all-queer casts doesn’t create tensions, otherwise where would this plot even be? So, the plot – Randy has been crushing on Hudson, a fellow camp attendee for the last 4 years, and this is the year he has come prepared to win his heart. Randy is femme, like high femme, and he knows Hudson is masc4masc (according to his OkCupid profile) so he decides to go ‘masc’, as ‘Del’, at this year’s camp to attract Hudson’s attention and make him fall in love with him, after which he will reveal the femme side of him bit by bit. Hudson also has a reputation for only having a 2-week fling and Randy is playing for keeps, so he is determined that only by making him fall in love will he be able to keep him around.
Now, you, me and some of the cast of the book already looked at this situation and shook our heads going ‘well, that’s not going to end well, especially when you start a relationship on a lie’ but Randy is too optimistic and excited about things possibly working out. And they do – while he has some fumbles at the start, Randy is pretty good at being Del – at doing sports and hiking instead of theatre, at keeping his wardrobe fairly constrained, at even getting Hudson to appreciate a few aspects of being femme. But soon, Randy starts to feel apart from his theatre group, and while he hangs out with his two best friends, George and Ashleigh, occasionally helping them with their respective relationships, he also feels the loss of the energy of the theatre group. He justifies it by saying the changes are worth Hudson’s love (oh honey, no), but soon also starts feeling the first pangs of disappointment when he realizes where Hudson’s preference for masc guys comes from.
Through the book, we also learn about Hudson’s home life a bit, along with a fair bit of discussion from characters about how it is living out in the world with the Straights. Hudson’s parents are particularly terrible, supporting him only to an extent, and even that is quite constricting; consequently, he has internalized their thoughts, as well as his own caution about being out, into an idea there is a good way and a bad way to be gay. Randy discusses it with him, his friends and some of the counselors. There is a lot more nuance to it that you will get while reading, but basically what it tries to explore is problems within the queer community like toxic masculinity, exclusion, racism, along with the problems from outside. There’s also talk about what it means to be out, safely, especially if you are a minor, or in any way, constrained from doing so; it felt vital that this was included because there’s more than simply ‘being yourself’.
Finally, I loved and enjoyed the characters of this book, and the way they all interacted with each other. The camp activities were all so fun to read through, and I especially loved Mark (‘I need to talk to my therapist’) who was a delight. Honestly, it made me wish I could’ve gone to a camp like this, despite me NOT being: (1) a people person, (2) an outdoor person, or even (3) a theater person.
Is it diverse? Everybody in this novel (except for the parents) is queer, including gay Jewish protagonist, gay Jewish-Korean love interest; gay Middle Eastern secondary character; demisexual lesbian secondary character; Afro-Brazilian-American secondary character; non-binary secondary character; older queer characters including a gay camp counselor, a trans Black camp counselor
“It’s the smell of freedom. Not that stupid kayaking-shirtless-in-a-Viagra-commercial freedom. That’s for straight people. This is different. It’s the who-cares-if-your-wrists-are-loose freedom.”
“I think we just get to be us. We don’t have to worry about the outside where we need to hide who are so people don’t bully us. That’s all we have to do to be good at being gay.”
“’Cause there’s a difference between being into something in a person and thinking a certain type of people are better.”
“Besides, I want to save some for when you can wear it again. It’ll be your un-masc-ing nail polish.”
“Oh my god, why have we not been calling it that all the time?” Ashleigh asks.“The Grand Un-Masc-ing. And right now, you’re masc-ed.”
“There are different degrees of out… and you need to stick to the ones that are safe. Now, what’s safe changes with where you are, and who you’re with.”
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Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen
Win (1) of (2) copies of CAMP by Lev A. C. Rosen (US Only) May 20 – June 3