My experience with summer camp comes exclusively from friends, horror movies, and that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa and Bart go to Camp Krusty. As far as I’m concerned, summer camp is where your parents leave you to sing Bible songs, camp counselors get naked and stabbed, and then you overthrow the leadership after a string of broken promises.
I doubt that will happen in this book. However, there will be little adventures in this most special of episodes. Just like the previous Super Special, the chapters change narrators, so the essay will be structured in the same way. This narrator switching allows for a range of events to happen — a range of events that may or may not intersect with each other. So pack up that sunscreen, read up on dangerous plants, and get ready to run from murderous killer cams, it’s time to go camping!
After some coaxing, Stacey decides to join her friends at Camp Mohawk. We’ll get to the problematic name, don’t you worry. She joins her friends, but there is one condition: everyone has to keep a diary that she will collate together at the end of camp.
Parents are dropping off their kids at the bus in a cacophony, not unlike the first day of school. Some kids are crying and they’re still forced on the bus, I guess. If your kid is crying and they’re not even at camp yet, maybe you should just let them stay home. This is not mandatory. Some kid is yelling about turnips. Another is yelling about her goldfish, which I’m sure will be the same one that she left behind.
Also, there are bags. A lot of bags. The campers are allowed to bring necessities and their own shoes and underwear, but all the campers are required to wear a uniform. Conformity is a necessity of camp, apparently. And just to add to the terribleness of this endeavor, all the clothes, including socks, have the same symbol. Stacey, take it away:
A teepee. Now, I don’t know a lot about Indian culture, but I know this much. The Mohawk Indians are part of this large Iroquois nation. And the Iroquois lived in longhouses, not teepees.
But what can you do? This was camp, not school.
Time to get into it. Don’t say “Indian.” “Indigenous” is good. The actual tribe name is better. What’s best is to not make a mascot out of the people who were systematically murdered by the government. Additionally, who cares if it’s not school? Being empathetic shouldn’t be location specific.
Finally, and most troublingly, Ann M. Martin wrote the book. She could have named the camp anything. Even if Stacey points out the problems, it’s still inappropriate. If it is a terrible name (and it is), and our characters know it (as indicated in the passage), that should be a plot point wherein a group tries to get the camp to change. Why name it something insensitive and have the symbol be something just as offensive if it’s not going to come up as a major plot point? The television changes the camp name to Camp Moosehead. The show is wonderful and perfect, and go watch it if you haven’t. And then cancel your Netflix subscription because there won’t be any new seasons of The Baby-sitters Club.
Apparently, the whole camp idea started with Dawn. The California girl had been on a camp movie binge including Meatballs and The Parent Trap. Good thing Sleepaway Camp wasn’t on that camp movie list, otherwise, Dawn might rethink her camp idea.
Like most things in Stoneybrook, the idea spreads like wildfire, and soon, all of the BSC, plus some select kids, are going to Camp Mohawk, bringing the grand total to twenty-three. With all the kids we know, the random kids we don’t know, the BSC and the other CITs (counselors-in-training), and the actual counselors, there’s going to be a lot of names, so brace yourself.
The most surprising kid going to camp is Charlotte Johanssen, who is already crying and yelling, “I don’t want to go away!” For some reason, she still leaves with the bus. At least she has her best-friend Becca Ramsey with her.
On the bus ride, Margo Pike throws up and camp officially begins.
Claudia gets to be with her best friend once again and they talk about body waves and perms. Their talk is cut short when they get their room assignments and all the BSC (except Mallory and Jessi) are split up into different cabins. Haley Braddock and Vanessa Pike are in the same cabin as Claudia along with some other girls whose names I never remembered. There are a lot of names thrown around, and you can’t expect me to remember all these girls who don’t contribute much and speak in one line a piece.
Unsurprisingly for a camp with an insensitive name, the camp is lacking in melanin, so Jessi is understandably nervous. Luckily, Mallory and Jessi are assigned to the same cabin. Also, they are CITs in training. They were given a special title after they wrote essays about The Baby-Sitters Club in their camp applications. Camp Director Mrs. Means (lovingly referred to as “Old Meanie”), gives them the titles in exchange for creating a show with some of the younger campers for Parents’ Day.
That’s all well and good, but a few of their cabinmates, Maureen, Mandi, and two Marys, laugh at them and call them “Bobbsey Twins.” That’s not so bad, but Mandi adds, “They don’t look like any kind of twins, if you know what I mean.” No, Mandi, what do you mean? You’re either racist, stupid, or both, and I would like to know which one. My money’s on both.
Fun fact! Mary Anne addresses her postcards to both her father and her cat.
Mary Anne meets her co-CIT — a girl named Randi who dresses like Claudia and, unfortunately, we have to settle for a description of Randi’s accessories instead of an installment of “What’s Claudia Wearing?”
On the first day, she wore parrot earrings, (Claud has a pair of those), a braided string bracelet on one arm, a wistful of bangles on the other arm, and even an ankle bracelet over one teepee sock. The bracelet spelled out her name. In her hair was a headband with a neon green bow attached to the side. It clashed with the green words CAMP MOHAWK on her T-shirt, but who cared?
To make herself sound cooler, she tells the girls that she’s only at camp to be close to her boyfriend, Logan, who’s a CIT at the boys’ camp. How are they closer at a camp where the boys and girls are separated instead of at home where they don’t have arbitrary walls? Either way, the girls don’t believe her, but Mary Anne is determined to prove she’s as cool as the others.
The one to blame for all this finally shows her face! And she’s here to tell us all about each camper! In a list. Not unlike this list of events separated by italicized names. Hey, show, don’t tell, leave the room, because we have a list of names and basic descriptions to get through!
I’m not regurgitating all that. The only one you need to remember is Heather, who likes to read quietly and strictly follows word economy. I like her already.
There’s a pink eye inflammation at Stacey’s cabin. To attempt to stop the spread, Stacey sends the infected girl to the infirmary. Unfortunately, the girl says that pink eye is a hoax and she should be allowed to rub her eyes on everyone else because stopping her is a HIPAA violation. I’m kidding. This is fiction — not real life! The girl understands and goes to the infirmary.
That night, Stacey discovers that she can’t eat the food that the cook is providing for her. She tells him that she can’t eat the food.
“Listen,” he replied, “you get what you get. I know the food’s not gourmet, but you don’t see anyone else coming back here just because this isn’t like home cooking.”
“But I’m diabetic.” I was trying to explain what that meant when Mrs. Means came in. She and the cook and I had a talk. When I left the kitchen a little while later, I was carrying a plate of meat, carrots, an apple, and a sugar-free whole-wheat muffin — on a clean plate, with no traces of honey.
You’d think the cook would be accustomed to dietary restrictions, but I guess it was the late ’80s and if you had a life-threatening peanut allergy, though shit, kid. I guess you’ll just die.
That night, Mrs. Means gives a talk on various camp diseases, like Lyme disease, and Stacey is freaked out. Then they sing some camp songs and that alleviates some of Stacey’s anxiety.
Mallory and Jessi have their first chance to work with the kids. Becca and Charlotte are there, but Charlotte just spends her time crying and having stage fright. Becca is not any better. Unlike her graceful sister, Becca has no rhythm. I know how you feel, Becca. I’m the only Filipina born without a musical sense. There are more of us. We meet every second Wednesday of the month. No music allowed. We wouldn’t understand it anyway.
One of Kristy’s co-CITs is named Tansy. There’s also Izzie and Lauren and they are all very cool, as Kristy demonstrates.
Tansy, Lauren, and Izzie were wearing smart-looking white lace-up Adidas on their feet, and I was wearing blue Ponies with Velcro straps. I almost always wear lace-up running shoes, but just before we left for camp, I saw these Ponies in a shoe store and bought them. I thought they looked really cool.
I guess I was wrong.
Ponies are cute. I don’t know about those Velcro straps, though. That’s an odd look for a thirteen-year-old.
Kristy also sees Izzie’s bra strap when her t-shirt falls to one side. Kristy is scandalized. Why? Because Kristy doesn’t wear a bra yet. That’s an issue for some reason.
It’s time for some summer romance!
Some CITs from the boys’ camp come over to invite the CITs from the girls’ camp over for a movie night. One of the boys and Claudia meet glances. Bring on the casual racism!
All I could do was look at one of the other boys. He was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous — and incredible and wonderful. I’m sure of it.
And I think he’s Japanese. Anyway, he’s Asian. He has black, black hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes, and creamy skin like mine. His hair is kind of punk. The top part stands straight up. He must have to use mousse or something on it in the morning. That and his black high-top sneakers were about as punk as he could get at Camp Mohawk. The rest of his clothes were teepee variety.
Again with the almond eyes thing. And Asians just believe in skin care — it’s not an inherited trait. Cleanse, moisturize, and sunscreen. And what is so punk about having some mousse in your hair? In high school, I knew a kid who put Elmer’s glue in his hair every morning to make it stick out in every direction as if he were the fifth member of Mudvayne. That’s punk.
Mary Anne is desperate to prove she has a boyfriend and so she writes a ridiculous letter to Logan asking him to wear aftershave and bring her a yellow flower to match her yellow ribbon. Then she signs it with “Your love bunny, Mary Anne” and leaves it in a conspicuous place for the other girls to find.
They encourage Mary Anne to sneak over to the boys’ side and deliver the letter. Then the girls come up with a way to get around bed check complete with an oddly detailed map. The girls also warn Mary Anne about some insane asylum escapees.
Mary Anne sneaks out, but she’s chased through the woods. She stumbles and her pursuers catch up to her.
I began to scream.
“Go away! Get out! Don’t kill me! I’ve got a kitten at home. He needs me. Oh, yeah. I also got a gun.”
This is America, Mary Anne. If there are kids, there’s a crazy man with a gun.
Luckily, it’s just Mary Anne’s counselor, Connie, Mrs. Means, and two counselors from the boys’ camp. One of the kids who has it out for Mary Anne ratted her out. One of the boys takes her note and Mary Anne returns to her cabin. Mrs. Means punishes her — she can’t swim for three days — but the other campers have a little more respect for Mary Anne.
Logan writes in all caps. You better get rid of that habit by the time the internet becomes a thing.
Anyway, he gets Mary Anne’s letter, and it’s quite embarrassing for him. His cabin mates make fun of him and call Mary Anne a “feeb,” which stands for “feeble-minded person.” How ableist and gross. It also sounds like something a boomer would come up with in between saying that millennials shouldn’t have children they can’t afford and then yelling at us to give them grandchildren.
The chapter ends with the boys throwing food at each other and laughing.
Dawn reminds us about her extensive camp experience, including a stay at “Camp La Brea.” Either that’s a poorly named camp in Death Valley, or it’s a camp at the tar pits. The tar pits are in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. Down the street from the old G4 channel headquarters. I’ve been to La Brea. If you camped there, you would be arrested for vagrancy.
Anyway, Dawn is oddly worried about Heather, the camper who just wants to read and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Heather is me if my parents forced me to go camping when I was a kid. I think Heather is great and should be left alone, but Dawn doesn’t seem to agree.
Dawn’s counselor, Charlene, is called away while the girls are camping, and the new counselor won’t be there until the next morning. Dawn encourages the girls to have fun, eat junk food, and stay up, but Heather doesn’t want to participate. She just wants to read. Frankly, if Dawn cared about fun, she’d realize that reading quietly is Heather’s form of fun.
Stacey is in the infirmary with a nasty rash. Is it Lyme disease, Stacey’s current obsession? Are minuscule bugs eating Stacey alive? No, it’s just poison ivy. But Stacey does have to spend the next few days with her new best-friend Calamine lotion and the camp nurse. Luckily, Stacey can talk to Miko, a fellow camper who broke her leg.
Charlotte is afraid of balls. Me too, Charlotte, especially basketballs. And volleyballs. And baseballs. Just keep me away from sports. However, Charlotte enjoys the rehearsals with Mallory and Jessi.
During rehearsals, some girl laughs so hard that she wets her pants, which causes Becca to laugh so hard that she wets her pants. It’s a whole thing I don’t want to unpack.
Then Kristy’s cabin mates put some make-up on Kristy and she likens it to torture. That’s not torture, but fine, I guess it’s torture for a girl who lives in a three-story mansion with a ghost.
Claudia’s cabin mates find out the name of the cute boy — and just in time for the movie. His name is Will Yamakawa and he is also mortified by the choice of Meatballs as the camp movie. A bit on the nose, doncha think?
The two of them bond over their grandmothers. Will’s grandmother had the coolest name rivaled only by “The Gabbers” — Tink. Grandmother Tink. Absolutely adorable and I love it.
I wasn’t aware of anything except the crackling fire and the moonlight and Will sitting next to me. After a long time, he reached over and took my hand. A chill went down my back. He didn’t let go until the CIT van pulled up and I reluctantly had to leave him.
Aww, Will is a sweetheart.
Debra is here to take over for Charlene, just in time for the camp hike. The girls sing “Monster Mash,” the well-known late-’80s camp song, while the girls look out for cairns to indicate their location. Despite the cairn hunting, Debra gets lost, which means the whole cabin is lost as well.
However, Heather has been reading up on camping and survival and she is integral to the group. She is also the only one who seems to know how to read a map. Eventually, the girls find their camp from the previous night. However, the girls aren’t out of the woods yet, as it’s getting dark and they won’t be able to make it back to Camp Mohawk until late. They camp out for the night.
The next morning, Dawn’s group meets up with the search party, much to Mrs. Means’s relief. That’s one lawsuit avoided. She gives Heather a medal for bravery.
So, the girls in Mary Anne’s cabin want to pierce her ears. Mary Anne is worried about her father’s reaction and how she would have to have “a nonprofessional job.” Oh no, what kind of life will she lead if she can’t work in a cubicle until her back hunches! And what’s wrong with having an unconventional job? I would love to have an unconventional job.
She still wants to prove that she’s cool, so she agrees to let her co-CIT stab her. It’s either this teenager with a needle or that teenager at Claire’s with a gun, so it’s a lateral move. The girls run around the camp looking for things like ice, a pen, a needle, and alcohol. At least they’re being sterile.
Mary Anne lays her head down and gets ready, but the stabber can’t do it. She’s never done it before and she hates the sight of blood. Just wait for menses, kid, you’ll get used to blood.
Mary Anne doesn’t get her ears pierced. Because Mary Anne was willing to go through with it before the girl stopped herself, she gains some respect from the girls. Then they all laugh for some reason.
The theme for the CIT dance is Valentine’s Day. It took the camp a whole three seconds to come up with it, so these little kids better enjoy it.
Logan’s cabin mates are terrible and continue to use the pejorative “feeb,” making them not cool at all. For some reason, they “grin” when they see that Mary Anne is not the aforementioned word. She was unable to attend the movie night, so this is the first time that Logan can see her. This is also the first time Mary Anne’s cabin mates see Logan, proving he exists and doesn’t live in Canada, where the girls wouldn’t know him.
They dance. There’s some banter. Then they kiss goodbye. It’s fine.
Each chapter starts with a postcard from the narrator to a side character. The postcards and their recipients have not been worth mentioning. So far, Claudia’s postcards have been to Mimi, her parents, and Janine. That is pretty standard. However, this postcard is addressed to Ashley Wyeth, whom I thought we were done with.
Anyway, it’s the dance and Claudia spends the whole time dancing with Will. When Logan tries to cut in, Claudia is not having it. She gets back to Will and they have a pretty heavy talk.
Then, in a quiet moment, Will whispered into my ear, “You know what? I feel like Tink is watching me now, and she’s happy because she knows I’m happy.”
Will’s breath on my hair tickled my neck, but all I said was, “That’s nice. I hope she’s happy for other reasons, too. Do you think that, wherever she is, she’s with your grandfather?”
Will looked very serious for a few moments. At last he said, “I don’t believe in heaven and hell, but I do believe that the spirits of Tink and Big Papa are together somewhere. So I know they’re happy. Both of them.”
Again, Will is a sweetheart.
Unfortunately, the evening has to end and Claudia and Will say tearful good-byes before she boards the bus and cries until she gets to her cabin.
Then the younger campers ask how it was and what Will was like. Then they laugh for some reason. I’m sensing a pattern here.
Before the dance, Kristy’s cabin mates gave her a big makeover. Even Kristy thinks she looks good. She dances and hangs out with Mary Anne and Logan. Then she goes back to her cabin. Presumably to laugh for some reason.
Stacey may be rashy, but that doesn’t mean she can’t go to the dance!
Usually, that’s exactly what that means, but Stacey is recovered enough that she’s able to go to the dance. She’s even allowed to return to her cabin.
The next morning, she wakes up and it’s Christmas! There’s snow in the window and presents for the cabin!
“During each session of camp,” she explained, “one cabin in each age group surprises the other cabin with Christmas in Summer. It’s a big secret. No one knows what day will be Christmas.”
First Valentine’s Day, now Christmas? This camp is a money laundering scheme for a shady Holiday Village, isn’t it?
And the snow in the window? It’s baby powder. This is clearly a threat. Here. Merry Christmas. You’ll get cancer if you don’t keep your mouth shut about this money laundering scheme.
It’s finally Parents’ Day! For an inexplicable reason, Mallory and Jessi made Becca and Charlotte the leads in the dance recital. Those two? The one who can’t dance and the one who cries if two people look at her?
Surprisingly, the show goes off without a problem. And after the show, Mary, Mary, and Mandi all apologize for treating Jessi and Mallory so poorly. However, Maureen doesn’t say anything to the girls. Jessi remarks, “Some people never learn.” No, Jessi, Maureen is just racist. You can find her yelling Conservative talking points at a clinic every day because she doesn’t have a job or a hobby.
And with Parents’ Day, the camp has come to an end. The parents collect their kids and everyone gets into their respective vehicles and then they all laugh.
We have some letters that Stacey compiled into the diary. This also serves as an epilogue for the novel. Claudia and Will write to each other. Stacey gets a Christmas card from one of the campers. Kristy sometimes puts on mascara now. Mary Anne writes to the other CITs, but she doesn’t think it will last long. Dawn wants to sign up for survival training and she writes to Heather. Speaking of, Heather will not be attending camp next year. And finally, Mallory and Jessi write to Mandi.
Now it’s time for me to rank each story based on arbitrary criteria from worst to best.
Logan — It was only two chapters and it was filled with terrible boys whom I hated.
Dawn — It’s annoying to watch someone bother another person who seems perfectly happy doing solitary activities.
Kristy — She was a passive participant in her makeover, which does not make for a particularly interesting story.
Stacey — She spent most of her time in the infirmary, but at least she did something.
Mary Anne — I know what it’s like to want to be cool.
Jessi — Jessi and Mallory stuck together and were able to put on a good show, despite their cast. As Little Vickie says, “People go to a children’s dance recital expecting a certain level of professionalism.”
Claudia — Will was sweet. Their relationship was sweet. And what’s a summer vacation without a summer romance that is doomed to end when the leaves change?
The second Super Special was a fun read, however, the stories don’t intersect with one another as much as the first Super Special. That’s fine, I don’t need them all to culminate in a third-act climax, but the interactions between the girls are what make the books enjoyable. The only two who talk to each other are Mallory and Jessi, and there’s a reason why they are ranked high.
This book, on the other hand, features significantly less Karen than the first Super Special, so that’s great.
If you’re interested in seeing the girls at camp, read this, then watch the Netflix show.
Now go have some summer fun, whether that means swimming or staying inside with a good book. I know which one I’ll be doing. And then I’ll laugh for some reason.
For a list of every Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, and Fear Street book review I have written, go to RereadingMyChildhood.com or follow RereadMyChildhd on Twitter. For more information about me, Amy A. Cowan, visit my website AmyACowan.com or follow my Twitter: amyacowan.