Thank you to Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers for my gifted ARC.
AUTHOR: Mike Curato
RELEASE DATE: September 1, 2020
SETTING: boys camp, 1995
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt
GENRE(S): LGBT YA Contemporary, Graphic Novel
A YA graphic novel about a 14-year-old boy who is bullied at Boy Scout camp, with near-fatal consequences.
Not gonna lie, this made me cry… I’m sitting there in the car with my son, waiting for my husband to come out of WalMart, and I am crying! This was so good.
The art style was perfect for this graphic novel. I was only 8 years old in 1995, but I totally felt the 90s summer camp vibes in this book. I cannot completely relate to all the trials that Aiden went through, but I am so sympathetic.
This boy is different. He is chubby, he is half Asian, he is confused about his sexuality. But he is also a proud Catholic and he is grappling with being who he is and who he thinks he should be. He is scared of not following certain religious rules that he didn’t even know were rules.
Aiden is spending the last summer before starting high school at camp. While he has some friends at camp and he excels in some fun activities, he is constantly aware of the glaring differences between him and some of the other campers. He is uncomfortable with his body. He acts different and gets bullied for it. What is worse, he starts having dreams about his bunk mate, Elias. Those dreams start affecting him during the day as well. But he isn’t gay. Being gay would mean liking boys and boys are jerks.
This graphic novel does a great job of bringing to light the homophobia in scout camps in not only the 1990s, but still apparent in the world today. Individuals on the LGBT spectrum were vilified and bullied and counselors were removed and fired. That is why education is such an important thing. Learning about how people who identify as LGBTQIA are literally the same as anyone who identifies as heterosexual is so imperative.
This was equal parts coming of age, self discovery, devastating and heartwarming. And I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to have read it.