Brain Camp

I was curious about this summer camp mystery for two reasons: as a former kid genius, I loved the idea of a story set among smart kids, and I very much enjoy the work of artist Faith Erin Hicks (Zombies Calling, The War at Ellsmere). The second, at least, was not disappointing.

Brain Camp cover
Brain Camp
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Perhaps I’d created the wrong impression in my head about this story, but I was let down. The “creating prodigies” aspect of this particular camp was downplayed and ultimately unnecessary to the story — the kids could have been brainwashed for any number of reasons and the story would work the same way. The smarts are only on view when needed as a plot device. Also, I’d seen this particular idea before as an episode of Doctor Who, the one where Anthony Head guest-starred.

There’s something wrong at Camp Fielding. Campers seem to be vomiting up feathers and collapsing. Since Jenna doesn’t achieve enough to satisfy her parents, and Lucas is turning into a baby criminal, their respective parents jump at the chance to send their kids to the camp regardless of the conditions.

The best part of the book is the natural way Jenna and Lucas’ antipathy turns to grudging friendship and then more. (Be warned: in this story, love actually does save the day.) The worst part is the cartoonish threat. I found a similar story in the kids’ comic Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown more plausible. (This is also a kids’ comic, but that one skews much younger.)

Here, it’s obvious early on that something horrific is going on, and I found myself wishing they’d get to it faster. There’s too much time spent on obvious points and characters that go nowhere — bitchy girl, bully boy — while not explaining bits I was curious about, like just how much the counselors knew and why they went along with poisoning the kids. The more realistic moments — as when Jenna gets her first period while away — are the best part of the book, but they seem to be there in spite of the plot, not to support it. There’s an overall lack of cohesion, leaving me wanting more of the pieces that had nothing to do with the story while not particularly enjoying the predictable main plot.

Stories about summer camp have been popular for years in comics, perhaps to distract kids being sent off or to show those at home what they’re not missing. This is definitely one of the latter, an erratically paced suspense plot that will convince anyone that camp is a bad idea, especially given the way the parents are shown to care more about test scores than their kids. Then again, kids who are miserable and homesick might appreciate seeing a story about how much worse it could be.

I did like the clever way the book’s front flap, which usually contains sell copy, was mostly pictures selected from inside. (You can see what I mean here.) That’s the kind of “about this book” more graphic novels should use. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

Similar Posts: Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown § Paul Has a Summer Job § Finding Gossamyr #1-2 § Hope Larson Goes to Simon & Schuster § Breakfast Served Anytime


6 Responses to “Brain Camp”

  1. Good Books to Budget For: Comics Out August 4 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Brain Camp (First Second, $16.99) didn’t work for me, but if you’re intrigued by the plot, I recommend checking out Faith Erin Hicks’ art. [...]

  2. *City of Spies — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] being disappointed with Brain Camp, by the same writers, I was leery of trying this graphic novel, but I’m really glad I did. [...]

  3. brittney Says:

    I think it was a good book. I gave it to my friend and everyday since she read it all she can say is your mom has to get the sequel (if there is going to be one). Personally i think she right. There needs to be a sequel and the ending of the book took a bit for me to figure out.

  4. big fan Says:

    i like this book so much that i have request to the author that he make a cartoon movie of this book this is the first graphic novel that i liked i will be so so so….THANK FULL of the author.

  5. EMMA Says:

    IT TOOK ME 2 DAYS TO READ THIS BOOK IT WAS A BRILLANT BOOK AND GREAT STORY LINE IT MAKES YOU INVOLED IN THE STROY AND MAKE YOU WANT TO READ IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN THE COMIC IS BRILLANT DESIGNED I WOULD RECCONEND IT

  6. Jenna Says:

    omg it was great if there is no sequel im going to go CRAZY!!!!!!!!! there has to be. at first i thout it was going to be stupid but once i started reading it i couldnt put it down. i really enjoied this book.

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