Camp Fielding, an educational summer camp, promises to turn any teenager into a prodigy. So when Jenna and Lucas, two ordinary 14-year-olds who constantly disappoint their parents, are offered last minute spots, their families jump at the chance. But not everything’s as it seems at the prestigious camp. Campers disappear without explanation, they wake up with mysterious sores on their heads, and Jenna and Lucas stumble upon a cabin in the woods where some campers appear to be held captive, covered in feathers. Determined not to meet the same fate, Jenna and Lucas team up and try to uncover the secrets the camp is hiding, secrets that may be bigger — and creepier — than they ever imagined.
Brain Camp is a delightfully creepy suspense story with just the right amount of intrigue to keep its target teen audience on the edge of their seats. It’s not a surprise to find out that the authors, Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, have also written for stage and screen as the story feels very cinematic. From the opening scene that sets up the mystery — why are these normal campers coughing up feathers?! — the plot is packed with twists and turns. The reader will want to know what’s up, just as much as our protagonists do, and will hope that they come out unscathed. The final reveal itself is a bit out there, with some imagery that may be disturbing for younger readers or those who are really squeamish, but the conclusion is still satisfying and leaves some things open-ended, hinting that the mystery may extend beyond Camp Fielding. Faith Erin Hicks’s artwork is polished and expressive, setting the mood and aptly illustrating the suspenseful action.
The production quality is up to First Second’s usual high standards — the cover is particularly well done with pitch-perfect art by Hicks and a lovely glossy treatment on the title and other select elements. Though it’s a paperback, it still feels sturdy with thick, glossy pages and should stand up to repeated readings.
by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan
Art by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second, 2010