Having my own terrible memories of being bullied at summer camp, I felt this book deeply. In Camp Scare, we meet Parker, a twelve-year-old girl, who has always had trouble making friends. She thinks maybe she talks too much about herself or knows too many random facts, but seems to identify with adults rather than kids her age. When she is humiliated at a “friends” house, her isolation and being bullied steps to a boiling point. When her middle school mysteriously offers her a scholarship to Camp Care, she jumps at the idea of being somewhere away from the bullies and humiliation. Especially since Camp Care is all about friendship and has a very strict no bullying policy.
Imagine Parker’s surprise when she sees Cassie Delvecchio in her cabin at camp. Cassie is one of the biggest bullies in her school and is responsible for Parker’s mortification after the “ice cream incident” at Cassie’s house. But Parker is determined to have a fresh start. She knows they don’t tolerate bullying so she will be her best self despite Cassie’s presence. By the time she gets back from changing into her uniform, her nemesis has already spread a rumor about her and none of her bunk mates will talk to her. Her worst nightmare has come true when she realizes none of the adults will help her and once again, she is on her own. Her only bright spot seems to be the mysterious Jenny, another camper that doesn’t seem to have any friends and no one is ever with her. Parker feels like she has found a kindred spirit and the highlight of her day is seeing Jenny at the campfire every night.
Camp Care has a dark history which no one at camp is allowed to talk about. Even a mention of what happened in 1988 is grounds for being sent home. Parker is determined to find out what happened to Gory Tori. As the girls who bully her seem to get hurt and taken out of camp, she wonders if there is a curse on Possum cabin or if something more sinister is happening. Parker soon realizes every time she tells Jenny about the bullying, something happens the next day as in Cassie breaking her arm or Sydney ingesting a poisonous mushroom. She wonders about Jenny and that maybe she isn’t who she seems to be.
There are many similarities to Mine by the same author, which I already read and enjoyed. THe fundamental similarity being a 12 yo girl haunted by a ghost who is not evil, just wronged. Camp Scare can be really preachy at times but I felt was an effective lesson on bullying. Sadly, in real life, not all 12yos are as resilient as Parker Nelson. I devoured this book in one sitting. It is easy to read, a little scary and a good testament on the resilience of kids in this day and age. I liked it acknowledged that victims of bullying can also be bullies. I think middle school and YA readers will enjoy reading this creepy tale.