Title – Camp Girl-Meets-Boy by Caroline B Cooney
Publishing Date – 1988
Alternate title ( my idea )- Camp Men
page count – 181
The Agenda – Okay, this is a hard one as in earlier Cooney books there is no real agenda no hammering plot to drive home. Mainly they’re just brilliant characters orbiting an event or idea. The event here is camp, Camp Menunkechogue otherwise known – thank goodness – as Camp Men.
Plot – There’s no real plot to Camp Girl-Meets-Boy. As a reader you just have to go with the flow. Cooney sets herself apart from the usual Camp books from the get-go. This doesn’t start as some plan – wouldn’t I like to be a counselor or wouldn’t I love to go to camp or yikes I’m being shipped off to camp. The world is already set. Camp Men is already in session, and the counselors already have impressions of each other. Violet is the pretty, saucy and beloved counselor who has to deal with the cribbies ( major anti-swimmers ), a bed wetter, and Janey who gets up early every morning to beat the Camp director Charles to play reveille ( or rather try to ) on her trumpet. Then there is Marissa, strong, down-to-earth, hoping for a great romance though worried about Vi’s competition. There’s also nurse Alicia whose dainty and doll-like to look at but underneath solid and sensible. As for the boys there’s suave, golden boy Sin, the teddy bearish, woodsy Jamie, and Dark the mysterious hunk. There is also the camp director Charles battling frequently with Violet whom he thinks is a ditzy flake and dubs her a ding-a-ling mascara tube. No matter, Violet is a hit with her cabin, scaring the girls with continuous episodes of The Green-Eyed Maniac. Just as Marissa is debating her boy options and Charles is leading an overnight trip with Violet and her cabin, a new girl arrives to become the catalyst disturbing an otherwise peaceful summer. She’s Cathy described as a centerfold with a pulse and has most of the guys panting after her. She takes great delight in calling Marissa – Melissa and being condescending and downright mean to the campers. Only she knows Dark’s secret and holds it over him. But now that Cathy has come, Vi doesn’t look so threatening or silly and suddenly Marissa and her become friends. Though will they ever find love at Camp-Boy-Meets-Girl?
Unintentionally funny – Nothing – Caroline B. Cooney is too clever a writer. If it’s funny it’s intentional.
Funny – Ah, too many to count. But the overnight trip with camp director Charles is hilarious. I won’t spoil it for anyone who decides to order the book. But I will note a scene in which the counselors are made to imitate horses in a field day event and Cathy refuses to join in stomping her foot and declaring, “I won’t make an ass of myself.” To which Alicia says very softly, “Of course, if anybody here does make a good horse’s ass, it is Cathy.” – lol.
That’s whacked – the amount of detail, words, thoughts, all strung together. This feels like the real camp deal. It’s crazy good!
Best Comment – Omigosh, too many to count. Here’s one of Vi’s zingers –
“Violet likes eye shadow,” explained Sin to a wondering Cathy, “And mascara, and rouge and perfume.”
Cathy smiled sweetly at Violet. “Some girls do need a lot,” she said kindly. Then she cooed.
“I’m beginning to think in terms of human sacrifice.” Violet said to Marissa.
“Join the club.” Marissa muttered.
Bullwer Little would be proud or Sentences worth noting – ‘And that night the sun set fiercely, as if raging against the end of summer. Hot orange and purple streaks savaged the sky, and torn clouds chased themselves. Wind ruffled the waters of the lake. There was no mirrorlike reflection of that vivid sky: just volcanic colors on the waves.’ – pg 162. I love this!
Cover Art – It’s a nice cover. And because it’s Bantam Starfire it’s drawn. I’m not sure it’s quite captured Violet and her cribbies considering none of them liked going near the water perhaps the opening scene of them all piling into a hammock might’ve been more appropriate but it’s nice. The girls however look too young. Violet actually had twelve year old campers – most noteworthy is Claudia whose battling the hate she feels at her parents for divorcing and both remarrying other people with upcoming weddings.
Summary / Opinion – I’m gonna get gushy. Caroline B Cooney is one of my favorite authors hands down. Her style is patchwork. It reminds me of those 80’s denim jackets in which the buttons were rhinestones, the yokes had tassel trim, there were embroidered all over with rainbows and sequins, and studs. Everything glitters. It makes a statement. And her writing is like that it takes a chance. It tells, it shows, there are short abrupt sentences, and kooky metaphors, and incisive thoughts. A girl doesn’t just drive slow she puddles along ( love it! ) I can’t properly describe her stories hoping you’ll understand the author. Take Camp Girl-Meets-Boy really, I’ve read dozens of Camp stories and not many stand out, in fact quite a few dip into the cliche bucket, not Cooney. Her stories are all about the characters and how she presents them. And best of all there’s something upbeat and breezy about them.
80’s comparison – There’s nothing specifically 80’s about this – I could rattle off 80’s Camp movies in which most of the characters wind up sliced and diced or mention the 1990 t.v. movie hit Camp Cucamonga but I think I’ll save that one for some series books in which they match cliche for cliche.
But if you’re in the mood to watch some 80’s counselors romance – check out Poison Ivy – Nancy McKeon and Michael J. Fox