Kelli Sue Landon,
Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood
(Outskirts, 2011)

This little young-adult mystery by Kelli Sue Landon tells us the tale of Holly, a 17-year-old girl whose father recently died. She and her mother move, to start over, but that means Holly has to start over with new friends at a new school. Maybe the senior camping trip will be the opportunity to do that.

Well, it doesn't work out that way. By the time the camping trip is over, half the students are murdered, along with all three of the teacher-counselors. Is the murderer one of the students? Or is it the creepy kid who keeps riding his bike around and around the camp?

The characters and their dialogue in Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood are pretty realistic. Some of the characters are a bit extreme, but, well, teenagers can be extreme at times. The social groupings of the kids fits what often happens in a setting such as this. And the story is compelling enough that I definitely wanted to read it to the end to discover the identity of the culprit or culprits, as well as the motives behind the crimes.

The writing is the weak spot for this 129-page book. The vocabulary and plot complexity fit readers who are about 11 to 13, but the story is pretty gory for those ages, plus there is a lot of talk about sex and drugs. In short, the story and the characters are aimed at readers the 16 to 18 range, but the writing is not. This book might be good for an older reader who struggles with reading or is just getting interested in it.

There is also an odd bluntness to the story, with horrible things happening and many of the characters under-reacting to the events. It's as if some of them have been desensitized to blood and gore, even though these kids are not from an area where that is common.

The story feels rushed at times. I would have liked more of a chance to get to know the characters. For the length of the book, they are fairly well developed, but maybe their reactions would have made more sense if the reader could know them better.

book review by
Chris McCallister

23 July 2011

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