“Divergent” means “tending to be different.” So it’s only fitting that a new summer camp based on the first novel in Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA trilogy would be untraditional.
Three five-day sessions of Camp Divergent, created by Naperville, Ill.-based Anderson’s Bookshops, will be held at the nearby Naper Settlement museum village in June, July, and August. Tweens and teens will engage in activities inspired by the novels’ five personality-based factions: they’ll put together food packs to send to Africa on Abnegation day and do brain teasers with local professors on Erudite day; plant vegetables on Amity day and hear area politicians discuss ethics on Candor day; and learn mixed martial arts from a tattooed body builder and cage fighter on Dauntless day. “By the time you’re done with the week, you’re definitely Divergent,” said co-owner Becky Anderson. “You’ll learn something in the process and have a great time.”
In addition to devoting one day to each faction, campers will also spend part of each day discussing other dystopian novels, such as Joelle Charbonneau’s Testing trilogy and Demitria Lunetta’s In the After series. Anderson expects Charbonneau and Lunetta, who are Illinois-based, to visit the camp. She also hopes Roth, who liked the camp idea when Anderson mentioned to her last July at the ALA annual conference, will stop by (“We don’t have a definitive ‘yes’ yet,” she clarified).
Even snacks will fit into the spirit of the factions. On Amity day, for example, organic farmers will talk about sustainability and bring their locally grown food for campers to eat.
Alas for daredevils, camp activities, which are still being finalized, will not mimic those of the book exactly. “We’re not going to zip line from the top of the Hancock,” Anderson explained, referencing a Dauntless pastime. “We’re not going to be playing with knives or guns!”
Campers, like Dauntless initiates, will play capture the flag – but less dramatically than in the novel and in the film, which was released on March 21. “We won’t be climbing to the top of a Ferris wheel,” Anderson said. For the choosing ceremony on the final day, they will draw blood – but, as Anderson reassured PW, it will be fake.
Camp may be two months away, but Taylor Gaul, an Elmhurst College sophomore at who will be one of four camp counselors, is already preparing. “I’ve been scouring Goodwill racks,” she said. “I have a gray dress for Abnegation, a really cool black T-shirt for Dauntless, and a flow-y tank top that’s in a mustard yellow for Amity because their colors are earthy colors. I’m still looking for my Candor outfit, which will be black and white because they see everything as black or white.”
The ‘Percy’ Model
Anderson was inspired to launch the camp not only by the novel, but also by the positive experience of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, which this summer will hold its eighth annual Camp Half-Blood, named after the demigods of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. “Rick set us up as the Austin branch of Camp Half-Blood,” said Topher Bradfield, BookPeople’s children’s outreach coordinator and literary camp director. “We’re not pretending we’re somewhere else. We run parallel to the books.” Some 700 kids attended a week of the camp during July and August 2013, and BookPeople expects that many again this year. Six week-long sessions cater to nine- to 13-year-olds, and one, the first to sell out every year, is for 13- to 18-year-olds. For the first four years of Camp Half-Blood, Riordan visited the camp.
Kids always leave Camp Half-Blood with books; last year, campers received the new edition of Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths, with an introduction by Riordan. And Bradfield is working with Austin schools in at-risk communities on a program called A New Way to Read, an after-school extension of the Camp Half-Blood idea.
Percy Jacson isn’t the only series to inspire a BookPeople camp. From June 16–20, the store will hold its fifth annual program based on the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. “We teach the kids orienteering, plant identification, knife fighting, snares, archery, and all that stuff,” Bradfield said. “To ensure our campers’ safety all of our weapons are padded foam training weapons. What we are teaching them is technique. Snares are for catching game. These are real-life outdoor survivor skills.” Over the years, BookPeople has also offered camps based on series such as The Spiderwick Chronicles, Kiki Strike, and Star Wars. All are held at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin.
Activities at the various literary camps vary, but the goal is the same, Bradfield said: to inspire kids to read. “That is our mission. We just do it in a non-didactic way.”