8 Summer Camps In Books That Take Us Back To Our Childhoods

Summer camp is a magical, mosquito-bitten place — and these books about summer camp definitely reflect that. If you ever went to summer camp as a kid, you probably remember it as eight weeks of friendship, friendship bracelets, and budding sexuality. If you ever worked at a summer camp as an adult, you probably remember it as eight weeks of wrangling screaming children, drinking around a bonfire, and budding sexuality. Whatever your feelings about summer camp, you're going to want to revisit some of the weird, wonderful, and occasionally distressing summer camps from your favorite summer reads.

After all, one of the quintessential parts of the summer camp experience is summer reading. Reading secretly under the covers after your counselor has declared lights out, pretending to read during down time so you can spy on your crush, reading bodice rippers out loud to the other girls in your cabin (we did that at my camp, at least). And there's something about setting a book at camp that lends itself well to great storytelling: at camp there are no parents, so kids are free to get into scrapes. People from different walks of life are crammed together into one tiny cabin with a clogged toilet. Secrets are revealed over s'mores. You never know what can change during one summer. So here are some of the best, most interesting summer camps from all of literature:

1. Camp Half Blood, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

If you're a demigod looking for an enriching summer experience, why not try Camp Half Blood? In the Percy Jackson series, Camp Half Blood is your typical summer camp for the "half-blooded" children of gods and mortals (it's on Long Island, of course). Percy himself is a son of Poseidon, and the camp is full of rowdy demigods and creatures from Greek Mythology.

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2. Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson

The name may be a mouthful, but the camp from the Lumberjanes comics seems like a blast. It's got plenty of strange supernatural nonsense going on, plus it's full of kick-ass ladies being friends and making quips. It's the kind of fictional camp you wish you could attend in real life (minus the threat from monsters and all that). One of the camp's mottos is, of course, "Friendship to the max."

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3. Whispering Pines, Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita

Not every great literary summer camp has to be supernatural. Whispering Pines from Sleepaway Girls is a much more realistic depiction of camp life: raging hormones, terrifying cool girls, and bonds of friendship that will last beyond the summer. Whispering Pines is all the best and worst of camp. It has the vicious social drama as well as the humor, the fun, and the surviving-in-nature of a real summer camp out in the Catskills.

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4. Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

This camp actually only appears in one of the stories from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, but it makes an impact. Z.Z.'s is a camp for kids with sleep problems. But it's not just insomnia: there are kids with night terrors, chronic sleepwalkers, teeth gnashers, night eaters, and all manner of other sleep-challenged children. It's a camp that feels both real and utterly fantastic, like most of Russell's strange and beautiful writing.

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5. Spirit-in-the-Woods, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings doesn't take place entirely at camp Spirit-in-the-Woods, but it's at that camp that our main characters meet and forge a lifelong bond. Spirit-in-the-Woods is a camp for the arts, the kind of camp that all misunderstood teens long for, where they can find friends who truly understand them. The six friends dub themselves "The Interestings," and spend the rest of their lives chasing those dreams they thought up at summer camp.

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6. Camp Green Lake, Holes by Louis Sachar

Camp Green Lake is a terrible camp. It's really a teen detention center, and not the kind of camp any kid would ever want to attend. I mean, the campers spend every day digging holes in the sun. But Camp Green Lake is also one of the best camps in literature, because it is so bizarre, horrific, and wrapped in mystery. Mysteries like, what are they digging those holes for?

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7. Camp Okahatchee, Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer

Summer camp is fun, but being nostalgic for summer camp is half the camp experience. In Proof of Forever, a group of estranged friends must recapture the magic of their perfect summers at Camp Okahatchee or risk losing their friends forever (as in, they literally go back in time). Camp Okahatchee is just the right blend of camp magic and realistic summer camp strife, and it'll make you wish for a trip back to those early summers of fun and teen heartbreak.

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8. Silver Springs Academy for Fine and Performing Arts for Girls, Art Girls Are Easy by Julie Klausner

If you already know comedian Julie Klausner, you won't be surprised to hear that Art Girls Are Easy is a hilarious, all-too-relatable comedy for the artsy summer camp girl. Silver Springs Academy is a bit of a departure from your classic, outdoorsy summer camp, but it'll bring back a flood of memories to anyone who ever attended a pretentious summer program as a kid. If you were a jaded, apathetic fifteen-year-old, Silver Springs will make you laugh while cringing.

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Images: Unsplash/Pixabay