Summer camp is supposed to be about finding nirvana in a rock garden…but Elodie prefers Nirvana and Soundgarden. Can she confront rambunctious kids, confusing feelings, and supernatural horrors all at once?
Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn’t know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn’t especially interested in learning…but now she’s responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though—and close to one of the other counselors—a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.
- Title: Camp Spirit
- Author/Illustrator: Axelle Lenoir
- Colorist: Cab
- Cover Artist: Axelle Lenoir
- Translation: Pablo Strauss and Aleshia Jensen
- Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
- ISBN: 1603094652
- Publication Date: April 21, 2020
- For Ages: 13-17
- Category: Young Adult
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.
I’d like to thank Top Shelf Productions for providing an advance copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for review consideration.
Camp Spirit is a hilarious, relatable, and creepy coming-of-age graphic novel with a snarky, grunge-loving protagonist and a sweet queer love story at its center. In the summer after senior year of high school, Élodie’s mom forces her to take a job at Camp Bear Lake to earn money for college. Élodie hates the outdoors and other people, especially children, so she’s not exactly looking forward to being a camp counselor. However, through the grand YA tradition of One Magical Summer, she learns to open up to the possibility of wonder and happiness in the world and in herself…while still keeping her snarky edge.
Author-illustrator Axelle Lenoir’s expressive drawings are wonderfully versatile—her panels range from eerie to laugh-out-loud funny to romantic and back again, creating a wildly fun book that perfectly captures the emotional rollercoaster of the One Magical Summer. The hellions in Élodie‘s charge are a highlight of the book, as the feral girls provide plenty of hilarious visual gags and some choice quotes to live by (“Hate calms me. I thrive on chaos” is by far my favorite). The redheads, as they’re called, are also a great depiction of how weird and funny kids can be and how much they respond to people just being themselves rather than putting on a “kid-friendly” act.
The themes of finding yourself and being open to new experiences shine through brightly without ever feeling preachy or sentimental. We rejoice as Élodie makes friends and learns how to wrangle the redheads, but we still snicker at the acerbic humor on display in her diary entries. Élodie is no snark-machine Daria clone, though; each character is well-drawn and unique to the book, especially the endearingly bizarre camp chief. The dialogue is funny and quirky, with a terrific translation that never feels awkward. I didn’t even realize I was reading a translated work until I saw illustrations at the end of the book with captions in French. (I would love to get my hands on the original work, L’Esprit du camp.) Camp Spirit is ideal summer reading: it’s a creepy, funny, sweet, and irreverent graphic novel perfect for teenagers and for adults looking for some ’90s nostalgia.
Hate calms me. I thrive on chaos. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.