A little while back, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I was only expecting to get some books signed, meet podcast bestie Lauren Kung Jessen IRL, and hang out with a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long. Imagine my surprise when I was handed an ARC of Camp Sylvania by Julie Murphy!

Maggie Hagen is ready to learn how to get over her stage fright this summer when she finally attends the prestigious summer camp, Camp Rising Star, with her best friend Nora. But her parents shatter all their plans when they announce that Maggie isn’t going to be attending Camp Rising Star that summer - they’re shipping her off to fat camp instead. But when Maggie arrives at camp, things are weird and not everything is as it seems. 

When I first got this book, all I saw was the cover art and the title. Then I noticed it was written by Julie Murphy and I think I did a double take. The last book I read by Julie Murphy was…not at all in the realm of middle grade, so I was pleasantly surprised (if a little unsure what to expect)! No worries though because her middle grade writing is just as awesome as her adult writing.

I absolutely flew through this book! All of the characters were interesting, fun, and relatable in their own ways. One of my favorite parts was that the cast of characters was incredibly diverse…and that wasn’t ever a talking point - they just existed!

There is a very specific scene where Maggie sees her stomach exposed and gets self-conscious. This is one of the areas o my body that I have always been uncomfortable with (and I think a lot of people are!) and so it really hit close to home. Seeing Maggie fit through her self-consciousness and instead go after what she wants is an empowering moment and I think that a lot of people will be inspired by it.

This book is a shining light, reminding us that we should accept who we are, as we are. It shows us how harmful society’s expectations can be and how to stand up against them, even when it means doing something scary. And through it all, it reminds us to hold on to the people and relationships that matter.

Camp Sylvania by Julie Murphy is available now and you can pick up a copy for yourself here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."