We first meet Mattie as he is being shipped off to summer camp for the first time and he is less than thrilled about this. He arrives friendless and feeling as if he doesn’t fit in anywhere. His first few days at camp are rough but then a beautiful thing happens. He begins to make friends. Slowly things start going his way; he begins to grow past his awkwardness, and even manages a few shining moments. He even meets a girl and experiences the thrill of a first love. At the end of the summer he parts way from his new found friends but takes some well-earned lessons with him.
I’ve never been a 12 year old boy, nor have I ever been to summer camp but Summer Sleep-Away managed to take me on a journey that I could relate to and make me long for a camp experience of my of my own. The author was able to bring alive both the angst and the excitement of camp. I never thought much about sleep away camp but now I feel as if I have missed out on a milestone of some sort. As a mom of kids this age, it also gave me a glimpse into what their summer experiences may be like. I loved watching Mattie grow over the summer as he became more confident in himself and his place in the world. In the beginning of the book, I ached for him and his sadness and wanted to swoop in and give him a hug (sorry, must be the mom in me!). By the end of the book I was routing for him and proud of the young man he turned into, as a true coming of age story should.
It was a quick, uplifting read that I as an adult enjoyed. I look forward to passing it along to my kiddos because not only does it give them a character they can relate to, it does so in a way that I’m not cringing at my children reading. There is no foul language, the summer love affair Mattie experiences is a pure and innocent one, and shows the bonds of friendships earned through common experiences.