Review of Camp QUILTBAG

by Nicole Melleby and A. J. Sass
Intermediate, Middle School    Algonquin    352 pp.
3/23    9781643752662    $16.99
Paper ed.  9781523524020    $7.99
e-book ed.  9781643753669    $11.99

Melleby and Sass bring together the middle school–aged protagonists they each created for the 2021 short-story anthology This Is Our Rainbow (co-edited by Melleby and Katherine Locke) in this novel set at a camp for LGBTQ+ youth. Melleby’s Abigail (she/her/hers), all but ostracized by her friends since she admitted to a crush on one of their mothers, begs her parents to send her to the camp. Sass’s Kai (e/em/eir) attends under protest: eir parents sign em up after a bullying incident. The two newbies form sometimes-bumpy relationships with each other and with the more seasoned campers in a safe but not necessarily awkwardness-free space. There’s a heightened awareness (even more than in other settings) that anyone might be romantically interested in anyone else—or might not. There’s also, realistically, a wide range of knowledge about and comfort with queer identities among the kids: one of them launches a campaign for a more inclusive camp name (“there’s no letter in the QUILTBAG acronym for pansexual kids, plus a lot of others”), while Kai tries to remember what pansexual means. Intersectionality in the differences between campers adds another dimension, especially in the area of religion: Abigail attends Catholic school; Kai is “kind of” Jewish and tentatively learns more about Judaism from another camper. This engaging, gently affirming novel should be valuable to young ­readers exploring their own identities or curious about those of others.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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