Readerly National Reading Campaign / April 3, 2014

From the very first page it’s impossible not to be captivated by Camp Outlook and twelve-year-old Shannon James, the reluctant camper who has a secret. Funny, wise and brutally honest with herself (and everybody else), Shan struggles to figure out the mysteries of life even when nobody else, including God, plays by the rules.

Other than a few little oddities (like her mom’s pink lipstick and her dad’s ponytail), Shannon’s family is completely normal, which is just the way she likes it. But when her mom’s pregnancy doesn’t proceed as expected, normal flies out the window. Her parents, “overwhelmed with life”, ship Shan off to church camp. It takes a crush, a fight, becoming an atheist (twice), a little illegal activity and a trillion speckles of light to help Shan figure out what “normal” means to her. Shan’s observations of life are hilarious, acute, and sometimes devastatingly sad. Her personality shines from the start, skillfully capturing readers, teasing them deeper and deeper into the story.

Brenda Baker writes with great self-assurance and an easy style; Shan’s vibrant voice comes straight from the heart. This isn’t just a good book; it’s an important book that will stay with readers. It deals with self-image, change, disability, tolerance and friendship without ever becoming an issues book. Camp Outlook is a must-have for schools, and a must-read for everyone else.

Reviewer Penny Draper lives in Victoria, British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning “Disaster Strikes!” series, historical fiction that places young protagonists at the centre of real Canadian disasters.