Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-A realistic debut novel set in upstate New York at Camp Ugunduzi, a wilderness therapy camp for troubled teens. The quickly paced story is told in alternating points of view among five unique and diverse campers, just introduced and grouped together during the four-week-long camp. Clarissa, who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, wants to get better and experience some "normal" teen activities. Andrew, whose eating disorder caused his band to break up, is guilt ridden and longs to recover. Ben, unable to separate fantasy from reality, prefers to go through life pretending to be in a movie, complete with voice-overs. Cold, unfeeling Stella has been to camp before and doesn't want to be back. Narcissistic Mason feels that he has no problem but is merely surrounded by idiots. Thrown together without social media or daily luxuries, the teens find themselves getting comfortable with one another, despite initial trepidation. One thing they all share is annoyance at the counselors: middle-aged hippie Josh and overbearing prude Jessie. When tragedy strikes, the teens' progress and outlook are tested. The emotionally charged yet hopeful ending will encourage understanding and empathy among even the most reluctant readers. Background material is added piecemeal as characters think back to the situations that brought them here. The book includes mature language and content (e.g., underage drinking and smoking). At times the work is raw and heartbreaking. The language is realistic, which teens will appreciate. VERDICT Recommended as a first purchase. Humorous scenes throughout will delight readers, despite the heavy subject matter.-Laura Jones, Argos Community Schools, IN © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Five teens are sent to a wilderness therapy camp for a month to work through mental illness in this debut novel. Clarissa wants to overcome her OCD; Ben is dissociative and lives through movies; Mason is a narcissist; Andrew struggles with anorexia; and sarcastic Stella battles anger and depression. Four weeks is a pretty quick time frame for a major psychological turnaround, but the group makes steady progress as they bond over hikes, late-night campfires, and romance. Somewhat predictably a tragedy strikes, but it's handled well, and the group members show continued growth through their individual narrative chapters. Throughout the story, the main characters' struggles are uniquely developed, and Yu portrays therapy in a positive light, helping to dismantle some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Readers looking for contemporary fiction that thoughtfully tackles the challenges inherent to psychological and emotional disorders will easily connect with this book. Shari Goldhagen's 100 Days of Cake (2016) and Susin Nielsen's Optimists Die First (2017) would make good companion titles.--Thompson, Sarah Bean Copyright 2017 Booklist