“In the summer we all fell in love. By the winter we had fallen apart. For Quinn and her sister, Fern, and brother, Reed, summer means working as counselors at their family’s summer camp: months of bonfires, bunks, and friendships made and broken. But last summer was different. Last summer they all fell in love with the same boy – Dylan, their best friend since forever, suddenly seen through new eyes. Six months later and everything has changed. The summer camp is empty and covered in snow, and Quinn, Fern and Reed aren’t speaking to each other anymore. Something happened that summer that tore them apart, and their memories won’t let them forgive.”
There is a part in Wild Blue Wonder where one of the characters, who is British, says “I always wanted to go to American summer camp as a little boy’ and I could completely relate to him in that moment because I have ALWAYS wanted to go to an American summer camp. Since I am a 46-year-old British woman this probably isn’t going to happen to me now, but I am a tiny bit obsessed with all things American and summer camps seem like one of their better ideas that we should probably have over here. They always look like such great fun in the movies – camp fires, s’mores, singalongs, sports, water fights, friendships . My sister went as a camp counsellor to one in Canada and she said it was amazing. It is probably one of those things that might not translate well, as we don’t have those vast remote forests over here, but I have to admit that, as a parent about to face those long summer holidays with two kids to amuse, packing them off for a week or so for some good, outdoor fun has its appeal…
Anyway, one of the things that drew me to this book on NetGalley was the setting in an American summer camp, deliciously set in one of my favourite corners of the US, the state of Maine. I was expecting a very light-hearted, teenage angst coming-of-age story but this book really surprised me because it had so much more depth than I was anticipating.
The story is written from the main character of Quinn, a seventeen-year-old girl whose parents’ run a summer camp called The Hundreds where, every summer, Quinn and her brother and sister are counsellors. The book is written partly as Quinn addressing a person off stage, who we come to realise is Dylan, a friend of the family and camp counsellor and the central story revolves around the relationship between Dylan, Quinn and her siblings and the happenings at the camp the previous summer. There is a dual timeline with the previous summer’s drama slowly revealed amidst chapters set in the present, which is the subsequent winter, and the contrast between the bustling seaside town and camp at the height of summer, and the quiet, dead time in the winter is a revelation and something that few people think about I guess. I have certainly never considers what happens to these places when the short summer season is over.
The contrast in seasons cleverly mirrors the mental state of several of the protagonists as Quinn and her family struggle with the aftermath of things that happened during the last camp season and the author does a fantastic job of really bringing the location and environment to life. I really liked the quirky nature of the camp and Quinn’s eccentric family. The amazing, close, inter-generational relationships they clearly have before the dramatic events of the summer make the disintegration of those relationships even more heart-breaking later.
The characters are beautifully drawn and sympathetic and I really felt for Quinn and everything she was going through. I could feel all that teenage pain and confusion acutely and I was racing to the end to see how it finished and I felt like it was a very realistic portrayal of what it is like to be dealing with those teenage feelings and how difficult it can be to deal with those feelings when people don’t talk to each other.
The writing is really beautiful and evocative and Carlie has some lovely turns of phrase that perfectly sum up what she is trying to convey. “When we press our hands together, it’s like my skin knows his skin.” I understand precisely what she is trying to convey here, I recognise that feeling completely and there were a lot of moments like that throughout the book. It was a joy to read.
This book explores some difficult subjects and a real range of reactions and emotions and was a very captivating and emotional read. I closed the book with a warm and satisfied feeling, which is the most I ever ask from a book and I really enjoyed it. So much so that I have bought a paperback copy to give to my three teenage daughters to pass around; I am sure they are going to love it. Although, they may start pestering me to go to an American summer camp themselves once they have read it.
Wild Blue Wonder is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
About the Author
Carlie Sorosiak grew up in North Carolina and holds two master’s degrees: one in English from the University of Oxford and another in creative writing and publishing from City, University of London. Her life goals include traveling to all seven continents and fostering many polydactyl cats. She currently splits her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, hoping to gain an accent like Madonna’s.
Connect with Carlie:
Goodreads: Carlie Sorosiak