I can’t resist a book with an ensemble cast, especially if the characters are thrown together into an unusual or high-stakes situation. I love trying to get into each character’s head and analyzing the group dynamics, the allying and backstabbing. And my favorite part, picking which character I relate to the most and rooting for them (and maybe actively pulling against the characters I don’t like). The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore is thus, of course, right up my alley. Five tweens at sleepaway camp paddle out on an overnight kayak trip with an elderly camp counselor who turns out not to be in as good shape physically as she lets on. Plans change, disaster strikes, and a quiet mayhem ensues. I say quiet because the action doesn’t rise to Lord of the Flies levels of anarchy and violence, but the growing desperation of the campers and their pragmatism (or maybe the word is callousness? Depends on your interpretation) in the face of obstacles create a creeping dread that just sucked me in.
A note on the structure: this book is as much about the incident at camp as it is about the rest of the girls’ lives afterwards. The camp sections are woven between short story-like chapters detailing each of the girls’ adult lives in turn. Some readers might be more interested in the headline-grabbing story of five girls stranded in the woods and find the adult sections superfluous. For me, though, it was a way to get to know each of the characters really well, which is exactly what I wanted. It was striking to me how some of the girls were drastically changed as adults, barely recognizable except in fleeting moments as the kids they used to be, while others seemed stuck in some kind of permanent preadolescence, unable to move on or grow up.
A fascinating character study framed by a heart-pounding, life or death trek through the unknown. I was riveted. (Also, Team Siobhan all the way.)