Not A Happy Camper: A Memoir
Grove, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch
ou don't need to have gone to summer camp to relate to Mindy Schneider's memoir,
Not a Happy Camper
. Her tales of teenage angst - that happen to have taken place in a summer camp setting - should strike a familiar chord with many readers.
his is the second camp memoir in a row that I've reviewed, the first one being
by Josh Wolk. The latter was told from the perspective of the adult author's returning to summer camp as a counselor. In her book, Schneider looks back on her experience at Camp Kin-A-Hurra in Maine, a camp for Jewish children that she attended when she was thirteen back in 1974.
chneider spent her thirteenth summer at a run-down, rainy, no-activities-offered overnight summer camp, run by Saul Rattner, who convinced Schneider's parents to send her there by showing them glossy photos of a beautiful campsite - one that happened to be the neighboring camp. Schneider had attended Camp Cicada the previous summer, but found the girls, mostly from Long Island, to be horrible and snobby. At Kin-a-Hurra, which is derived from a Yiddish expression that is uttered to ward off the evil eye, Schneider bunks with Autumn Evening Schwartz, who communes with the dead, and Betty Gilbert, who does nothing but sleepwalk and read her way through the summer.
ach chapter begins with a camp song and a picture from Schneider's camper days. Interspersed throughout the book are very funny commentaries about her home life, like her mother's convincing a local butcher to give them steak scraps for the dog while the rest of the family ate only hamburger.
n addition to falling out of a canoe, stepping on a beehive, and trying desperately to hide her rather prominent nose and her athletic ability, Schneider spends most of her thirteenth summer searching for that first, elusive boyfriend. Her tale of how she pursued Kenny, while Kenny pursued Dana, while Dana pursued Aaron, while Phil pursued her, is the stuff of sitcoms. In fact, Schneider does have experience as a comedy writer, which shines through brilliantly. This gem of a book is funny, honest, and wry, and would make a good choice for both adults and young adults.
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