Dead Weight: Murder At Camp Bloom, a new standalone graphic novel written by Terry Blas and Molly Muldoon and illustrated by Matthew Seely, follows a group of four teens attending weight loss camp who come together after witnessing a grisly murder. Though Jesse, Noah, Kate, and Tony all arrive at Camp Bloom with different goals and attitudes, they join forces to figure out which of their cabin mates or counselors may be responsible for murder.

While the title of this book is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the mission of Camp Bloom, the story itself relies very little on stereotypical ideas about weight. In popular culture, weight loss camps often serve as a punchline rather than a multidimensional setting. Perhaps the most famous example is Disney’s 1995 film Heavyweights, wherein a group of teen campers deal with outrageous situations imposed by a tyrannical fitness counselor.

In Dead Weight, by contrast, we’re not meant to derive humor from the antics of food-obsessed caricatures. Instead, the spotlight is on the mistakes and hypocrisy of the camp counselors, whose struggles with image and identity fuel the conflict in the story. The campers themselves, though still working to find their voices amidst the influence of parents and peers, generally behave in ways that are competent, brave, and well-intentioned. Weight loss camp, in this instance, is not a punchline. It’s a setting that is both zany and thoughtful, giving the story a unique hook while subverting pop culture’s stereotypical notion of “fat camp.”

Seely’s cartoonish and saturated style meshes effortlessly with the tone of the text. When tasked with illustrating corpses, he leans into the absurd, and the visual is similar to that of corn syrup and food coloring. Images that could be frightening or disgusting by another hand instead blend well with the overall silliness of the story. Depicting violence and humor on the same page is tricky, but Blas, Muldoon, and Seely manage it gracefully.

The mystery at the heart of the book is entertaining, though silly, and the four main characters are an unlikely and compelling band of allies. There are characters of color and LGBTQ+ characters in major roles. Fans of the Goldie Vance series will appreciate the diverse cast and light tone of the mystery, while fans of television shows like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls will like the artistic style and overall wackiness. Though there are moments of cartoonish gore (this is a murder mystery, after all), the story would be appropriate for middle school audiences, and may attract younger readers due to its visual similarities to popular cartoons. This is a solid title that will surely delight those who enjoy over-the-top stories in unique settings where friendship plays a vital role.

Dead Weight is an excellent additional purchase for a large graphic novel collection, particularly in communities where irreverent YA titles heavily circulate. Additionally, those looking to expand their collection to include more titles that deal with body image and size diversity may find this to be a valuable addition. This book contains a complete story arc and currently stands alone, though the ending allows for the possibility of a sequel.

Dead Weight: Murder at Camp Bloom
by Terry Blas and Molly Muldoon
Art by Matthew Seely
ISBN: 9781620104811
Oni Press, 2018

  • Madison

    Past Reviewer

    Madison Bishop currently works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Plymouth Public Library in Plymouth, MA, where she's learned that her lifelong love of Betty and Veronica, X-Men, and Sailor Moon actually comes in handy when talking to kids and teens about their favorite books. She got her B.A. in Comparative American Studies from Oberlin College in 2015 and her MLIS from Simmons College in 2017. She maintains a personal review blog, Maddie Reads, where she mostly writes about YA books with LGBTQ+ characters and superhero comics written or illustrated by women. When she's not working, reading, or writing, Madison can be found trying out new vegan recipes, watching slasher movies, or pretending that zombies are chasing her on the treadmill.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!