Gabe Durham. Publishing Genius Press, $12.95 (publisher direct price) paperback (166p) ISBN: 978-0988750357
Readers who never went to summer camp needn’t worry. The characters in this vibrant novel-in-shorts (swim trunks?), from campers to counselors to Grogg the cook, are the perfect guides to a weeklong, wooded adventure away from the lazy comforts of home. Fun Camp moves linearly from Monday to Sunday, covering nervous arrival to wrenching departure and all the accelerated, hot-house growth most conducive to youth in between. By using a range of recurring characters, varying voices, and formal shifts (lists, monologues, questions, etc.), Durham keeps the reader engaged and laughing and often surprised. Despite their brevity (or perhaps because of it), the shorts are bursting with movement. It’s no easy feat, and Durham makes it look easy throughout, particularly with letters, suggestions, and, here, a “Question”: “What’s the rule on campers soliciting curly locks from loved counselors?” Whether stargazing, pining, preaching, or struggling, each character is growing and learning lessons which are implicitly imparted to the reader. From “Everything I Know About Music”: “My friends: If I ever kiss all of you, you’ll know I’ve just made a terrible mistake.” There’s a level of sophistication here—the gut punch while you’re laughing—and it’s so subtle as to be stealthily disarming. Autumn comes and then winter, though in the summer it’s easy to live fast and maintain a kind of temporary short-sightedness that comes with warm water and soft skin. Life’s disappointments, however, and the inevitability of change, are right around the corner, and where this book succeeds so well is in its ability to stir the reader’s sense of nostalgia and the impermanence of youth. It conjures precious feelings that haunt both the head and the heart, and solidifies the notion that, due in large part to their sheer speed and amplification, our younger years are (or can be) the best years of our lives, and certainly the most pure and honest. Above all, this lovely and warming work is a celebration of the best kind of experience: shared. (June 2013)
Purchase Fun Camp HERE.
Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at melbosworth.com