Come Sleepaway at Camp Trauma!

Oh dear. I have just thoroughly traumatized myself, by reading this:


It's difficult for me to parse my exact feelings about this book. It's gripping, but it's also oddly written, in a strange clumsily omniscient style wherein the narrative voice provides you with sudden unexpected access to a variety of characters thoughts, pasts, and futures. Key dramatic scenes are rendered as asides, and the pacing is…odd. It's not what one might call a great book.
What this author has, in spades, is eerie knowledge of the illogical hell that is the interior of an 11-year-old girl's mind and heart. And that is something no mother of a 10-year-old girl should ever have to witness. From the chilling first exchange, "Do you shave yet?" to the final urine-inflected horror (you'll have to read it yourself, I have the decency and innocence of the internet to protect), it all seemed so unpleasantly real, so very much like the dark haze that comes over me when I try to remember those years. I read it after dinner last night, and have been uneasily thinking about it since then. Happily, Diana appears unfazed by it: "Yeah, pretty horrible, right?" was all she said.
But it does make me wonder something that's been occurring to me ever since the hue and cry over the Gossip Girl and Clique books of a few years ago: can reading about the cut-throat social machinations of what it takes to be popular ever serve a person as a sort of "here's what to watch out for?" Or does it just provide the depraved with a road map? Or both?

5 thoughts on “Come Sleepaway at Camp Trauma!

  1. I haven’t got the answer (sorry) to the roadmap vs. what-to-watch-out-for dilemma, but I know it well. I try to dissuade my 12.5 year old from all those mean-girl books, but of course some slip in and who knows what effect they’re having.
    In any case, you pose the question so perfectly!


  2. I doubt they’re a roadmap…at 11 I began to read books by VC Andrews starting with “Flowers in the Attic”…and I’ve yet to lock my daughter in the attic and poison her with arsenic 😉


  3. Honestly, I think it’s good to have one or two, so you do know that it happens to everyone and not just you. I swear, I was almost 20 when I realized that 3/4 of the nations girls had been tortured by the other 1/4. But, I don’t understand the veritable OCEAN of mean girl books.
    On the other hand, when I was 11, I started reading Stephen King. Which is surely more damaging than Gossip Girl.


  4. I remember reading “Blubber” By Judy Blume, and being horrified, but weirdly interested. Kind of like not being able to turn away from a car wreck. I remember it making me more aware of how I treated other girls. I didn’t want to be like those girls in the book. Right now I am in the middle of Barbara’ Colorosa’s “The Bully, The Bullied, and The Bystander” and again I am very interested, and also horrified. But it is my job to make sure my kids are none of the three… no pressure there for parenting, right?


  5. That’s a very imteresting question. I’ve long wondered that about the publicity surrounding eating disorders; adolescents should be warned of the dangers, and adults should know what to look for, but at some point I think it just starts to look like an instruction manual for susceptible girls.
    I read some things, like “Blubber,” which I remember offering some sense that cruelty was universal; I wasn’t the only girl in history ever to feel tortured. But I think it was softer somehow than the things I’m reading about now. Or maybe I just remember it that way. I should read it again and see.


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