Review: Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock


Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: July , 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format: Ebook, bought from Amazon
Status: First book in the Camp Boyfriend series


Summary:
The summer of her dreams is about to get a reality check.

They said it couldn't be done, but geeky sophomore Lauren Carlson transformed herself into a popular girl after moving to a new school halfway across the country. Amazing what losing her braces and going out for cheerleading will do. Only trouble is, the popular crowd is wearing on Lauren's nerves and she can't wait to return to summer camp where she's valued for her brain instead of her handsprings. She misses her old friends and most of all, her long time camp-only boyfriend, Seth. This year she intends to upgrade their relationship to year-round status once she's broken up with her new, jock boyfriend, Matt. He doesn't even begin to know the real her, a girl fascinated by the night sky who dreams of discovering new planets and galaxies.

But Matt isn't giving her up without a fight. As he makes his case to stay together, Lauren begins to realize his feelings run deeper than she ever would have guessed. What if the guy she thought she was meant to be with forever isn't really The One? Returning to Camp Juniper Point was supposed to ground her uprooted life, but she's more adrift than ever. Everything feels different and soon Lauren's friends are turning on her and both guys question what she really wants. As summer tensions escalate, Lauren wonders if she's changed more than she thought. Will her first big discovery be herself?

Blurb:
Camp Boyfriend is a book that explores how your relationships shape your identity. How much of Lauren's self is created and shifted by her friends, her family, and her two boyfriends? Lauren takes readers with her on her journey to discover herself as she also tries to navigate romantic waters with both her guys. You'll laugh as many times as you'll ponder the deeper questions Joanne and Karen Rock's writing creates with this fun summer camp adventure, which will have you begging for s'more! (see what I did there!) 

Full review under the cut. Readers beware: there be some true spoilers, but I made sure to mark them well for anyone who wants to read the review, but not the important stuff.

Review:
Camp Boyfriend is ballsy and different. I have to give major kuddos to Joanne and Karen for having the guts to do something different than the tried-and-true summer camp romance. Not that there's anything wrong with traditional romance, but it's really refreshing to see authors go down the path less traveled. Am I confusing you? Let me start at the beginning: Our protagonist, Lauren, is having a bit of a crisis. She's in Texas and dating football superstar Matt, but her heart lies with her longtime friend Seth, with whom she hooks up every summer at their annual summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina. Lauren has plans to end things with Matt, but he springs his parents' pending divorce on her and decides to tag along to camp. Romantic entanglements ensue!

Lauren is...not my favorite protagonist, at least she wasn't at first. Sometimes she just feels too sorry for herself. I wanted to give her a shake and tell her to get over it on occasion. See, Lauren has always been the braces-and-glasses-wearing, frizzy-haired astronomy geek, but after her move to Texas, she ditches the braces, tames her mane, and joins the cheerleading squad. So now she's a silky-haired, straight-toothed dancing queen who is dating the hunky athletic boy. Lauren is not always happy with the changes in her life, especially as they lead her farther from her friends in Munchies Manor and Seth. Her friends don't make it easier on her (oh, I will get to them in a second), but she just lets people walk all over her and make her feel bad for having evolving interests. LAUREN, CAN YOU PLEASE HAVE SOME SELF ESTEEM FOR A SECOND? Luckily, Lauren has a couple of beautifully written epiphanies in the novel, and all the change, for better or worse, makes her grow stronger. So yes, she does have some great moments where she stands up for herself and she stands up for others.

The guys. *le sigh* Oh, the guys. Matt, as stated, is the king of the jocks. He's a triple threat: football, baseball, and I'm assuming basketball (I don't think sport #3 was ever stated outright). He's handsome, charming, and emotionally vulnerable because of his parents' issues. At first, his relationship with Lauren seems as shallow as a puddle because that's how Lauren presents it as first. They seem to share very few interests aside from overt popularity, and it doesn't seem like they know each other well at all. Strike that. They DON'T know each other at all, despite having dated for eight months. However, Matt leans on Lauren while he's stressed with his parents, and when Seth presents himself as opposition, Matt goes to bat for his relationship. Now, sometimes Matt took it caveman-style, which is just the worst, but he's a seventeen-year-old guy whose girlfriend didn't tell him about the other man in her life, and that other man is doing the best he can to steal said girlfriend. I'll cut him some slack. The moments between Matt and Lauren alone are some of my favorites. I mean, dugout scene. That. Is. All. I had to stop reading to fan my face, and that is 100% true. But it's not just making out in the rain. I love watching their relationship deepen as they learned more about each other and grew closer. Cue the squeeing.

Then there's Seth. He's also handsome, charming, and emotionally damaged because his mom abandoned him when he was a child. Seth has some serious trust issues, which is very obvious. He also has no problem hitting on another guy's girlfriend. I was pro-Seth for the longest time, but the fact that he kept trying so hard to pull Lauren away really started to put me off. I mean, if he'd just left it, I think he would have won much more easily and more quickly than with all his antics. I don't know if he was using Breanna to make Lauren jealous or if that was a real thing, but that was super not cool. Memo to Seth: you can't be upset with a girl's boyfriend if you've got a piece on the side (or maybe it's not the side. I don't know. You know what I'm saying.). All this being said, Seth has adorable quirks, he's super smart, and I love how protective he is of his friends in MM and his own cabin. I love his kindness, his generosity, his loyalty. And yes, he and Lauren also have some rather, erm, heated moments. ;)

You know who doesn't have a lot of loyalty, though? The Munchies Manor girls. I know they're Lauren's friends, but I really was annoyed with these supporting characters. Huh. "Supporting." There were moments in this book where these girls were about as supportive as a three year old bra that's lost its underwire. That's harsh, I know, but I was so frustrated with them. They reminded me of High School Musical 2. Go with me on this one. Troy 1. gets a promotion, and 2. starts hanging out with a college basketball team that will help him get into college, but his friends make a fuss. Granted, Troy should have kept his commitments better, but you should never be upset with a friend who shows signs of improvement in their life. The MM girls make such a fuss over Lauren's changes, even when they weren't bad changes. So it's bad to like dancing? And use hair products? And not have braces anymore? These girls made me sad. I know it's hard when a friend seems to be outgrowing you, but if you support that friend and make her feel loved and supported, you'll friendship will grow right along with both of you. If you continually make her feel guilty for having new interests or a new look, chances are, you're going to lose her.

While I did have a problem with a lot of the characters being categorized by one trait, interest, or hobby (ie Seth is the plant guy, Julian is the fantasy guy, Alex is the sheltered girl, Jackie is the tomboy, etc.), Camp Boyfriend is actually a book against playing up those stereotypes. One of the reasons I gave it 4 stars is because the characters come to realize that the jock can also be into music, the wannabe astronomer can also like dancing, the popular girls can also be nice, etc etc etc. It is a little remniscent of that scene in High School Musical where the characters explain their multi-faceted interests, but it's much less campy.

The romance actually made me really happy, and I want to talk about why. This is going to get really spoiler-y so if you don't want to know what happens STOP READING NOW

If you're still with me, let me tell you why I was so pleased with this. Joanne and Karen gave Lauren major lady-balls. Why? Because she realized that she was losing herself by waffling between Seth and Matt. She felt the two halves of herself, stargirl and inclusive dancer, being pulled apart by their fighting. She also wasn't happy by their Neanderthalic macho-man super-aggressive public displays of possession. NOT displays of affection. These guys were definitely using their moments with Lauren to make the other mad, and that was not cool. I'm so proud of Lauren for choosing the most difficult option and going solo for the end of camp. 1. This showed Lauren wanted to put herself first, which is fantastic. She wanted to discover who she is, and I'm all for that! 2. She used the opportunity to bond with the other female campers and have a girl power moment. I am also all for this! 3. She was able to more objectively look at her relationships with Matt and Seth to figure out who she wanted to be with. Like me, she realized that one guy was actually fighting for her, and the other was putting up a show of fighting for her. Also, I hate to say it, but distance matters, especially when you're in high school. Lauren does choose Matt, but she waits until the end of camp and therefore never actually breaks her vow of no boys!

YOU CAN COME BACK NOW!!

I'm really impressed with Camp Boyfriend. It's a sweet romantic story with plenty of heated (like, seriously sexy) moments, but it's also a book about self-discovery, identity, and feminism. Girls shouldn't identify themselves based on the people, especially the guys, around them. Lauren finds herself lost and confused so she takes the time to get herself together. It's a strong statement, one rarely found in ya simply because most of us like the straightforward guy-gets-the-girl romance. I mean, I definitely like that, but it's nice to have a book that also has some backbone! Very well done, to Joanne and Karen. I know I will be eagerly awaiting the rest of the books in this series. Make sure you check out the first Camp Boyfriend story, "Camp Kiss," which is a novella that tells of the first time Seth and Lauren get together. You can download that story here.

Recommended for: A lighthearted fast read, self-discovery, feminism
Not recommended for: Anyone who doesn't like a little bit of camp and corniness


Book Links:
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About the Author:
J. K. Rock is the pseudonym for YA writing partners - and sisters-in-law - Joanne & Karen Rock. After years of comparing notes on their favorites books and films, often dreaming up new endings to suit them, they decided to write their own stories. Their first Young Adult book, CAMP BOYFRIEND, is the first in a three-book series. CAMP PAYBACK will be a Spring 2014 release, and CAMP FORGET-ME-NOT arrives in Summer 2014. Visit the Camp Boyfriend website at http://campboyfriend.net to learn more about the free novellas they are offering readers prior to each full length book. Individually, Joanne Rock is an award winning Harlequin author published in 26 countries and translated into 20 languages. Karen Rock's first Harlequin Heartwarming release, WISH ME TOMORROW, is a deeply emotional story of enduring love.
Author Links:
 

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thank you so much, Mary for this incredible review!!! It is so insightful and I kept nodding the whole time I read it thinking- YES- Mary gets us and the story! You are such a talented reviewer!! Is there any chance you might consider posting your review on Amazon? It is amazing.

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    1. I'm so glad you like my review, Karen! I really enjoyed Camp Boyfriend and wanted to share everything I thought about it, which is why this review is so long!

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  3. I soo want to read this! I had to quickly scroll past the spoilers because I must find a copy of this book somewhere and read it! Soon! Anyway, loved the review!
    Xo

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    1. I'm glad you liked it Kristi! Definitely find a copy and then come back and tell me if you agree with my thoughts and Lauren's choice. :)

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  4. I have heard so many good things about this book *note to self get a copy*

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    1. It's lovely! Be sure to check out Camp Kiss as well. If you hurry and read it, you'll be able to check out the second novella as well when it comes out!

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