Skye, a prickly, smart-mouthed preteen, can tell her summer is going to suck. Her mom drops her off with her father and stepmother (or, as Skye calls her, “step-monster”) saying that Skye might be in for a surprise. Unfortunately, the surprise is that instead of getting to spend time with her father, Skye’s being shipped off to camp for the summer. Some confusion on the day of departure results in Skye boarding the wrong bus—one that’s heading for a place called Camp Midnight.

Skye can tell right away that things are going to be weird and creepy at Camp Midnight. All the other kids on the bus are eerily silent, with the exception of a quiet yet friendly girl named Mia, who Skye reluctantly befriends. At Camp Midnight, Skye is astonished to discover that not only does the camp run nocturnally, but all the other kids have monstrous “true selves” such as witches, werewolves, etc. Skye, never one to let anyone or anything get the better of her, quickly decides to use lots of bluster and bravado to fake her way through the summer…but will she be able to keep her all-human nature a secret?

One of this graphic novel’s real strengths is Seagle’s character writing. Skye is the picture of snarky teenage attitude, yet young readers will relate to her problems and chuckle at her quick, cutting comebacks. Skye is also smart enough to realize that she herself isn’t perfect, and her insecurity shows in realistic ways. Mia is a wonderfully shy girl with a terrible secret, and manages to convey her desperation for friendship and acceptance without coming off as annoying or needy. Counselor Cobb, the person in charge of Camp Midnight, looks one-dimensional and scary at first but reveals hidden depths of wisdom and compassion as the story moves forward. All the characters will ring true for middle school kids, who will see parts of themselves, their classmates, and their teachers in the story. It’s an extremely humanizing look at monsters, with a nice overall message that it’s better to just be yourself.

Katzenstein’s art is unlike anything I’ve seen before in kids’ graphic novels. His style for drawing characters and objects is sketchy and imprecise, with lines marking the edges of objects or facial features crisscrossing and overlapping frequently to convey strong emotions or quick movements. Backgrounds are minimal and often nearly nonexistent. The color scheme is also highly unusual, with many panels featuring just two or three strongly contrasting hues (hot pink and pale yellow; sky blue and dark olive green, or magenta and dark orange). Panels are laid out and shaped very conventionally for the most part, but modified rarely to convey strong emotion; for example, one panel shows Mia breaking down with despair, and a close-up drawing of her face is fragmented over several jagged-looking panel edges. Overall, the artwork is definitely original, but aesthetically I found it unappealing. This is probably a purposeful choice (the story is all about monsters, after all), but it personally made reading it a lot less enjoyable for me.

Kids in grades 4-7 who like scary stories with strong character writing should enjoy this book. The theme and concept have a lot in common with Vera Brosgol’s fantastic book Anya’s Ghost, and it might also appeal to kids who like Chris Schweizer’s The Creeps series.

Camp Midnight
by Steven T. Seagle
Art by Jason Adam Katzenstein
ISBN: 9780606378086
Image Comics, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12

  • Kristen Lawson

    Past Reviewer

    Kristen Lawson is the Youth Services Department Manager at the Roselle Public Library in Roselle, IL. She has worked with children and teens in public libraries since graduating with her MLS from UIUC in 2006. Now she is working on making more space for kids’ graphic novels, in addition to other duties that fall under “making the library awesome.” Though very picky about movies and music, she has a wide range of reading interests and is constantly on a mission to read all the things.

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