My Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age Category: Middle Grade
From the acclaimed authors of Hurricane Season and Ana on the Edge, an unforgettable story about the importance of and joy in finding a community, for fans of Alex Gino and Ashley Herring-Blake.
Twelve-year-old Abigail (she/her/hers) is so excited to spend her summer at Camp QUILTBAG, an inclusive retreat for queer and trans kids. She can’t wait to find a community where she can be herself—and, she hopes, admit her crush on that one hot older actress to kids who will understand.
Thirteen-year-old Kai (e/em/eir) is not as excited. E just wants to hang out with eir best friend and eir parkour team. And e definitely does not want to think about the incident that left eir arm in a sling—the incident that also made Kai’s parents determined to send em somewhere e can feel like emself.
After a bit of a rocky start at camp, Abigail and Kai make a pact: If Kai helps Abigail make new friends, Abigail will help Kai’s cabin with the all-camp competition. But as they navigate a summer full of crushes, queer identity exploration, and more, they learn what’s really important. Camp QUILTBAG is a heartfelt story full of the joy that comes from being and loving yourself.
After reading one of A.J. Sass’ their books earlier this year I wanted to read more of them. I bought Camp QUILTBAG on release day and was excited to read it. It’s co-written by Nicole Melleby, whom I hadn’t read any books by before, but after reading this one I plan to check out more of her books in the future.
Camp QUILTBAG is a great Middle Grade book about two kids who both visit Camp QUILTBAG. It has a light and fun vibe, but also repeatedly touches upon some more difficult topics like coming out and dealing with people who are not being accepting. It has a message of acceptance and being yourself and I liked seeing both of the characters make new friends and grow more confident in who they are.
I had fun reading this book and I liked how the book switched point of views between Abigail and Kai. They both have a different experience of camp and their own story, but their stories also intertwined in a sense. I enjoyed both their point of views and thought reading both of their stories in one book like this worked out well. Where Abigail is excited to be at camp, but is still very much new to it this and doesn’t quite feel like she belongs at first. While Kai is more comfortable with who e is and doesn’t want to be at camp. This led to them having a different start and experience with camp.
I really felt for both of them as they both have had a difficult experience with people not being accepting of who they are. Abigail grows more confident throughout the book and makes friends who do accept her for who they are. And it was just amazing seeing that. Kai already has some great friends who accept em for who e is, but e has grown more wary of new people and trusting them after the event that caused eir arm to be in a sling. I thought it was interesting to see how they both deal with things and the ending is awesome and I liked seeing how they had changed throughout the book.
I have to admit I struggled a bit with the start of this book with remembering who was who and their pronouns, but luckily this got easier the further I read. Both main characters are assigned to a different cabins and have 3 other cabin mates that get introduced in quick succession and then there are camp counselors and other cabins members as well. While it was a bit of a struggle to remember who was who and their names and pronouns at first, I also think having this many queer characters in a book was great as it really illustrates diversity. They are all queer, but each has their own experience and own challenges. I almost wished this book was even longer as I would’ve liked to get to know each character better.
The camp setting was fun and I enjoyed reading about all the camp activities and seeing the characters make new friends. They each have a crush as well and I liked seeing how they dealt with that. I would’ve liked to see more scenes and activities that were only fun and light, as sometimes the angst and worries of the characters could put a damper on some scenes. One the other hand I did think it was interesting seeing both Abigail and Kai deal with their own troubles and how those plot lines developed throughout the story. When they made mistakes or don’t handle things as well they found a way to resolve it or apologize, which I liked. The competition and the troubles their pact made wasn’t my favorite part of the book, but I was happy how things got resolved. The ending was awesome and really ended the book on a high note, although I was sad to see the camp come to an end.
To summarize: This is a great Middle Grade novel set at a camp for queer kids. I liked reading about both Abigail and Kai and I liked how the book switched between their point of views. They both have their own story and struggles. I liked how Kai was a bit like a big brother for Abigail and I liked seeing how they interacted. There is a big group of side characters and while that was a bit overwhelming at first with remembering who was who and their pronouns that got easier the further I got. Everyone has their own personality and behavior and I liked getting to know them. The book has a great variety of characters and neatly shows much diversity there is when it comes to people and how they experience things. The camp competition and the pact between Abigail and Kai wasn’t my favorite part of the book, but I liked how it got resolved. There are some great friendships that develop throughout camp and I thought the ending was awesome with how everything got resolved and dealt with.