cover image Brain Camp

Brain Camp

Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan and Faith Erin Hicks, Roaring Brook/First Second, $16 paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-59643-366-3

This story by First Second veterans Kim and Klavan, who wrote City of Spies, is unconvincing in both plot and characterization. Lucas and Jenna are both supposed underachievers in an overachieving world—Jenna’s sister attends Yale at age 14—but though we’re told again and again, their dialogue and actions don’t bear this out. Dragged off to a place called Camp Fielding to explore their “potential,” they encounter a mish-mash of mysteries, none of which attain clarity. Among the clues: the smartest campers have left their cabins; girls sprout strange growths on their foreheads; a dead bird is found outside a cabin, all of which leads Jenna and Lucas to their discovery of the missing campers in a barn and some odd nefarious activities by camp directors. When the camp director admonishes, “We’re only trying to help you, Lucas… Do you really want to end up in prison like your dad?” it’s just one example of the heavy-handed exposition that mars the story. While readers may be pulled along by Hicks’s bright and expressive drawing, the workmanlike writing and rushed plotting won’t do much to keep them engaged. Ages 11–up. (Aug.)