Brain Camp is a collaborative effort from Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan and Faith Erin Hicks. It reads like a watered-down tweener version of Black Hole, as if the three wanted to tell a Charles Burns story of adolescence but couldn't really get into the nitty-gritty. The narrative has its moments but lacks development and depth -- perhaps underestimating its tween-teen audience -- and often feels as if it were composed as a series of compromises. Had the storytellers not compressed, and had they dug deeper into the darkness they try to reveal -- the book would have been a much more interesting, mature narrative.
Both Brain Camp and Black Hole deal with young people making strange changes. In Brian Camp, apparently average kids at a camp designed to make them smarter, faster, and homogeneous are becoming like-minded geniuses while also becoming hosts for bird-like aliens. Two 13 year old underachievers, Jenna and Lucas, figure out the plot while getting the pseudo-hots for one another (their teenybopper desires what makes them special among their similarly-aged peers. Yeah, it's a bit of a stretch). They foil plans to turn an entire group of summer campers into hosts, but they seem to lose the war when the big man in charge is named secretary of education.
A Kirkus Reviews blurb distributed from publisher :01 says the book offers "sly social commentary with a fizzy dash of stomach-lurching horror." There is some sort of commentary going on. As a former middle school Gifted Specialist, I appreciated how the authors seem to suggest that we're too quick to label kids or want all children to be "exceptional" based on a very narrow definition of that word. I can even see the text as one that gifted students would appreciate because of how often they feel pressure upon earning or having the label of "gifted" bestowed upon them. But, only using the text with students labeled as gifted would miss the point. Further, the theme might be of interest to some readers, but the lack of depth, which comes off as tailored towards a certain perception of young readers and shackles the narrative, will most likely turn off many. This might be a graphic novel that young folks read once, but I can't see it as one to which many will want to return.
Labels: Brain Camp, Faith Erin Hicks, Laurence Klavan, Susan Kim