Camper Girl
by Glenn Erick Miller
Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing

"I felt paralyzed by the mess of emotions welling up in me. It was as if a part of Rebecca had appeared—a coffin, a memorial, a gift."

On the cusp of adulthood, Shannon Burke swallows down her resentment as the rest of her friends head off to college. When a beloved family member, her dreamy and impractical Aunt Rebecca, dies suddenly of a cancer she had kept carefully hidden, Shannon yearns to penetrate the veil of mystery that lay over Rebecca's life. An opportunity comes when she learns that Rebecca has bequeathed her battered old Dolphin camper to her niece. The camper's arrival sends Shannon off on a scavenger hunt through the Adirondack Mountains, where her aunt has hidden a series of posthumous letters and riddles. There Shannon finds catharsis and an unbearable truth.

Miller writes unsentimentally and poignantly about the struggles of poverty, the blessing and burden of family, and the awkwardness of being fully grown but still lacking any clear sense of identity or purpose. The setting is lovingly rendered, bringing upstate New York with its barn swallows and pine needles and dense, mossy woods to vivid life. The heroine is engaging and sympathetic, her journey frequently affecting. Although the mechanics of the plot at times feel derivative, the author keeps the focus of the story firmly on Shannon's transformation from hapless teen to an informed, brave woman as she overcomes a series of grueling physical and emotional obstacles that reshape how she conceives of herself and her loved ones. The result is a character study and coming-of-age story in the guise of a backwoods adventure, one brimming with mystery and sure to encourage and empower its readers.

Winner of the 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Young Adult Category

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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