Written and Drawn by Hope Larson
Lettered by Jason Azzopardi
Atheneum Books/Simon and Schuster
Cover price: $17.99; On-sale June 17, 2008
Do you remember what summer camp was like? Sitting around a campfire, telling ghost stories, playing Marco-Polo at the lake. This reviewer has never once gone to summer camp but I think if I did, I think it would be a mirror to the experience written in Chiggers by Hope Larson.
Abby arrives to her summer camp like every year in anticipation of seeing her friends except now everything has changed. Her best friend Rose has been upgraded to camp assistant and has no time to hang out with her. Her bunkmate Beth, with newly pierced ears, has befriended fellow camper Zoë, leaving her as the odd girl out. The only girl who seems to be pay attention to her at all is Shasta, the new girl who may or may not have been struck by lightning. Will Abby continue to be friends with Shasta even though her bunkmates can’t stand her?
What is great about Chiggers is that it sums up the essence of summer camp nicely. Whether it is swimming in a lake, playing capture the flag with fellow campmates, or experiencing summer love, you cannot find a book that encapsulates the summer camp experience better than this. There were times where I just was lost in the book and felt like I was not just experiencing summer camp with these young ladies. I felt like I was an actual camper there.
The writing is top notch. Hope Larson really gets into the mindset of these young women and provides and individual voice for each of them. You really start to grow fond of each character and empathize with their situations. I particularly like the character of Shasta. She comes off as this rebel, who may or may not be lying about, well everything. She reminds me a lot of people I use to know back when I was a small tween, the people with those larger than life stories to tell who seemed so much wiser than they really were.
While Larson’s writing is great, her art deserves some attention. It is gorgeously painted and visually stunning to behold. I also like how she uses her art to add the daydreams of Abby into scenes of the book. It gives it a sort of Scrubs/Ally Mcbeal vibe. As an added bonus, Larson provides visual tutorials on how to create friendship bracelets or play Egyptian Rat Screw, which I assume are staples at summer camp.
A fair warning though, this is not a book for everyone. This is definitely a book that is geared toward girls from the ages of ten to fourteen and its topic and story content reflect this. However, I do not think that adults should avoid the book. Sure, you might not be young girl, but I am sure everyone can relate to feeling neglected by friends or being pressured by others to do something you do not want to do. These situations are universally experienced and are the hook of this book that really snags the reader in.
In the end, I think everyone should take time out of their busy schedules to pick up Chiggers. It’s like summer camp but without the poison ivy or chiggers.