Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. And two young adult novels: Jack of Hearts (and other parts) (American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018) and Camp (School Library Journal Best Books of 2020, Elle Magazine Best Books of 2020). His books have been translated into different languages and sold around the world, nominated for awards and featured on many best of the year lists.
Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen
Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.
This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.
But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
Thoughts and Themes: I read this one as it was a pick for one of the book clubs that I am a part of. It was one that was already on my shelves so I was glad to have a reason to read it.
This story reminded me of the time that I went to Trans camp and how that made me finally feel at home and at ease with who I am. I love the idea of LGBTQ+ kids getting a space where they are free to be who they are amongst others who are also like them.
When I first started this book there were so many times that I was annoyed with it and the stereotypes that were being shown. It felt that the whole thing was stereotypes and trying to go through so many tropes in a few pages. I was also worried that we would see a lot of stereotypes and problematic behavior without any commentary on it. I was pleased that this shifted mid way through the book as Randy gets called out for his plan and things between him and Hudson shift as the truth is revealed.
I liked that this book focuses on toxic masculinity within the gay community as well as internalized homophobia. The book doesn’t straight out say that that’s what it is addressing which is something that I like. These topics get addressed through conversations that Randy has with Hudson and conversations that he has with his friends. I like that there isn’t a sudden shift in the way Hudson’s parents think because it makes the story relatable.
I teared up at the conversation that Connie has with Randy about Hudson and his parents. It was just so real and relatable. I really felt for Hudson as he shifts back into someone his parents are more comfortable with for his safety and well-being back at home.
Characters: I really enjoyed all of the characters that you meet throughout this story even if Hudson and Randy would annoy me at times. There were times that I just couldn’t stand Randy at the beginning of the story and halfway through as well. My feelings towards Randy shift as he develops as a character and begins to understand where he went wrong.
I love that each of these characters learns more about themselves as the story goes on and we learn more about them. I love that they change throughout the course of this book and they aren’t one dimensional. I really enjoyed the side characters throughout this book and thought that they really added complexity to the story. I like the side story between George and Brad, as well as Ashleigh and Paz.
Something else I loved is that we get a demisexual character in this story. I have yet to read a book that has a demisexual character so it was really nice to see my sexuality represented.
Writing Style: The story is told in first person through the perspective of Randy which is something that I like because we don’t really get into the other’s thoughts. I like that when there is problems occurring we only get to see Randy’s side and feelings because it makes you angrier with him. I think it is good that we don’t get to really sympathize with Hudson until later on and we don’t find him a likeable character immediately. Well at least I didn’t find him likeable as it seemed he was trying to trick Randy into something Randy wasn’t ready for.