Ah, summer camp. Such happy memories of swimming in a river, bonfires, and friendship. But The Counselors is so much more than water fun and singing camp songs. In one book, Goodman has written about murder, first love, complicated families, and the power of female friendships, even when they make little sense, and written it all in a way you don’t want to put it down. It is fast-paced, exciting, and tugs at your heart bones. While they categorize this as a young adult thriller, it is a mystery that stands on its own.
Goldie Easton has been a part of Camp Alpine Lake, a haven for the elite’s children, since she was a child. Though she is a “townie”, living full time in the small, depressed town of Roxwood, Vermont, where Camp Alpine Lake lives, she has made a friendship with Ava and Imogen that will last a lifetime. Or will it? Usually their time outside of camp is filled with texting, visits to NYC where Ava resides in a penthouse, or to Roxwood, where they eat maple creemees and snuggle. But this year has been different. They have not been in touch as much as they are all keeping big secrets, afraid of being judged. Ava and Imogen don’t know the bigger secret: Goldie has taken up with a boy in town, Heller, and they were in an accident that transformed both of their lives. When Heller is murdered in the lake at camp, Goldie suspects everyone, but especially Ava, who left the camp the night he is murdered. Goodman is absolutely brilliant at capturing what it feels like to be a teenager on the verge of becoming a young adult, how heightened everything feels and how high stakes every single event in your life seems.
There are so many things that stand out about this beautifully written mystery. The flow and pacing of the story is spot on. The Counselors is told from Goldie’s point of view and alternates between her current life at camp and flashbacks to other times in her life including happy times with Imo and Ava, her time with Heller, and the accident that changed her life. There is such a delicious build-up of tension throughout the story, it defines what it means to be a page-turner.
The author built up a mystery similar to a puzzle, with the story going in all different directions but everything connected to Goldie, Ava and Imogen. Every time the reader suspects what has happened, there is another “clue” to take us in a different direction.
The friendship between Goldie and her two friends is the genuine star of this novel. Ava and Imogen are the “rich kids” but never make Goldie feel like a “townie”. But as they grow older in the book, there are certain things that divide them but don’t separate them. I loved their camaraderie, their affection towards each other and their strong link. While they all have been keeping secrets, it doesn’t separate them. It felt empowering as a female to read about them.
This is my first novel by Jessica Goodman, and I devoured it. It kept me on edge with the tension and strong characters. The mystery was well thought out. Goldie is so relatable, in her first relationship with one of the most popular boys in town, willing to lie so she can save his future. I enjoyed everything about The Counselors and can’t wait to read more from this author.