Thanks to Goodreads for the image!
Once again, not the best image. I didn’t have time to go wandering all over the internets to find a better one, so sorry. But you can tell a few things. One is that Kammy looks more like a 12 Year old boy in the 1970’s than a 12 year old girl in the 1980’s. Another is that Kammy is at summer camp, and people behind her are swimming, yet she’s in jeans and a long-sleeved (and popped collared!) shirt. But in the book, she’s always wearing shorts. I have no idea who did the cover art, though it’s not reminiscent of Hodges Soileau.
Bummer Summer is famous for being Ann M. Martin’s first ever published YA novel. I’d say it’s one of her better ones, but I honestly haven’t read any post-BSC Ann M., so I couldn’t say that in any fairness. It’s told from the POV of Kammy Whitlock, a 12 year old girl being raised by a single father after her mother died when Kammy was only four. Dad is getting remarried to a woman (Kate) who has a three year old daughter, the disgustingly nicknamed Muffin, and a two month old baby, who is unnamed. Also, the two month old baby? Not Kammy’s dad’s; it’s Kate’s ex-husband’s.
The book starts at the wedding, but flashes back to the when Kammy was first introduced to Muffin and the then-pregnant Kate at Thanksgiving. Kate and Kammy get along, but once the wedding is over and Kate and the kids move into Kammy and her dad’s house, things become a little rough. Kammy, who is used to being an only child has a hard time adjusting to life with a new stepmother, a whiny three year old and a colicky baby. Dad and Kate decide (against Kammy’s wishes) to send her to Camp Arrowhead for the summer to get her out of the house while everyone else adjusts. Kind of a dick move, in my opinion.
So Kammy goes to Camp Arrowhead with the promise to her dad that she’ll try to stick it out for two weeks, and if she’s miserable, she can come home. Otherwise, she’s there for a full eight weeks. Kammy has some problems adjusting to camp. She doesn’t want to change in front of the other girls, she has trouble finding the bathrooms (which are not attached to the cabins) at night, the birds wake her too early, she’s a good swimmer but fears that the lake is full of snakes and as a natural clutz she is terrified when it comes her turn to serve lunch in the mess hall. Also, she makes an enemy, Susie, who is a Camp Arrowhead regular. I can’t remember what Susie does initially, I think she calls Kammy a baby for being scared of serving.
So Kammy and her new BFF, Emily play pranks on Susie. And lots of camp goodness is abound. Kammy loves the arts & crafts cabin, and loves riding horses. There are campfires and whatnot. But everything else is kind of…eh. She vascilates between missing her dad and being angry with him for sending her there.
Then at the end, Susie and Kammy kind of make up. Her dad and Kate come for parent day, and Kammy decides to stay the whole eight weeks. The end.
- Kate is a goddamn superwoman. She is two months post-partum when she has her wedding. So yay for her finding a wedding dress that fits at a time when your body is changing DAILY. Also, wears a bikini to the pool the week after the wedding (also making her two months post-partum). She goes on her fucking honeymoon at two months post-partum, which is just after women get the OK from their doctor to resume the…ahem…sexual relations. Also, one month before the wedding, she goes roller skating with the family. When she is one month post-partum. Now, I’m no doctor, but I do have a kid and I used to make my living reviewing medical records (the majority of which were L&D), so I know that’s against doctors orders. If she had a c-section, that’s definitely out of the question. If she delivered vaginally, she could if she felt up to it, but I know what one month post-partum feels like, and somehow I don’t think she’d feel up to it.
- Another thing about Kate: she was already preggers when her husband left her. Then she met Kammy’s dad, “several weeks later.” She was already at least five months when Kammy’s dad introduced them. Then she gets engaged and is married by the time the baby is two months old. Jesus Christ, you wanna slow down a little? Maybe Muffin is such a pain in the ass because of all the change that’s gone on in her short life. I think one failed marriage didn’t teach Kate her lesson about, oh, I don’t know…rushing into it.
- Kate is also superwoman because she’s only in her mid-twenties, but is already a history professor at some unnamed university. But she is introduced as Mrs. Parker, not Dr. Parker. So huzzah for her for becoming a professor without somehow getting a doctorate.
- This book suffers somewhat of a Karen Brewer-like lack of contractions. Not that bad. The dialogue is fine, but otherwise we get a lot of choppy sounding “I am” “We are” “That is” if you know what I mean.
- When the baby’s colic acts up, a big deal is made about having to look for his soybean formula. I could get all La Leche on Kate’s ass and explain that breastfeeding is your best defense against colic. But I won’t. (Also, she’d probably have had fantastic milk-filled knockers to fill out that wedding dress.)
- To me, it’s pretty much unacceptable that the baby has had no name for two months. Christ almighty, how much time do you need to think of a baby’s name? You just had nine months! Then when Dad and Kate come to visit Kammy at camp after the first two weeks (by which time the baby is three months old), Kammy suggests naming him after her dad, Robert. And Robert and Kate look at each other like, ‘holy shit! We never freaking thought of that!”
- Kammy can be a catty bitch. She and her bunkie (and BFF) Emily spend a lot of time talking about their cabin-mates.
- But Kammy can also be pretty sarcastic, which I like about her.
- The camp director, Mrs. Wright, makes all these exceptions for Kammy and her camp troubles. Like putting a changing room in the cabins and sharing serving duty and excusing her from swimming. But really, she should have been like “suck it up, toots. Sometimes life isn’t fair.” Because now Kammy is gonna think that she needs to get her own way, and that doesn’t make her any better than Muffin.
- After Susie destroys a quilt Kammy was working on for the baby, Kammy is distraught. Her cabin-mates are concerned and she assures them she isn’t sick or on her first period. Odd, I thought Ann M.’s girls didn’t menstruate. (Though can you imagine a Mallory Pike book? “My parents are soooo unfair. They won’t let me get a nose job and they won’t let me menstruate! Just because I’m eleven years old! It’s so distant when Claudia gets her period every month, because she lets me go buy tampons for her. I feel dibbly mature walking into the drug store for tampons! I can’t wait til I’m thirteen and bleed from the vagina and need to buy tampons for myself!”)
- You know what drove me nuts in BSC Super Special #2, Baby Sitter’s Summer Vacation? That no one in the story could remember the lake name. Well, it’s the same fucking thing here. Lake Owatonna? Lake Omatomma? Owertanna? Oconomowoc? Owentanna? Gah!
- Kammy makes a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I’m trying to decide if that’s something that a 12 year old in 1983 would have been familiar with. Or if this is another example of Ann M. making teenage girls far to astute in matters of 1950’s pop culture.
- Overall, not the worst book I’ve ever read. But not the best….and as far as camp books go, I prefer Laura’s Luck, which I think I need to find.