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Brain Camp [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Susan Kim , Laurence Klavan , Faith Erin Hicks
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, Bargain Price, Aug. 3 2010 --  

Book Description

Aug. 3 2010 Brain Camp

Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who’ve been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.

But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious . . . and a lot afraid.


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From its shock opening right out of a horror movie, this graphic novel sets the scene for an old-fashioned scare story. A throwback to the sort of paranoia that Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives capitalized on so well, the tale follows Lucas, a tough kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and Jenna, an Asian girl who isn’t measuring up to her siblings’ grade averages, as they are bundled off to Camp Fielding, where they’re guaranteed to become high-performance go-getters. But something very strange is going on there: counselors sneak into the cabins at night with hypodermic needles, and kids start acting like supersmart zombies. Kim and Klavan, who balanced adventure and kid’s social issues so well in City of Spies (2010), do the same in another well-rounded adventure here, as the far-out (and kind of gross) climax mixes with genuine insight into dealing with parents, fitting into a new crowd, and handling the pressures of performance. Hicks’ line work is cool enough to assuage older readers who might be suspicious of the summer-camp setting. -- Booklist
 
Ever wonder what would happen if the men of Stepford conferred with evil aliens and decided to open a summer camp? Dubbed "losers," immature Jenna and delinquent Lucas seem to be perfect candidates for the mysterious Camp Fielding, which guarantees "to prepare any child for the SATs and beyond." Most of the campers are well behaved, obedient and intelligent; in their spare time, they enjoy solving equations and learning the bucolic camp's giant maze. However, as Jenna and Lucas settle in at the camp, they begin to notice that things aren't quite right: Campers keep disappearing, and every day more of the kids go from being surly or stupid to downright perfect campers. A little snooping leads them to a disgusting and horrifying discovery about the camp, but can Jenna and Lucas impede their own transformations before it's too late? Kim and Klavan offer a sly social commentary with a fizzy dash of stomach-lurching horror. Hicks's chunky art goes to town with the revolting possibilities. Smart, disgusting fun. -- Kirkus
 
This story by First Second veterans Kim and Klavan, who wrote City of Spies, is unconvincing in both plot and characterization. Lucas and Jenna are both supposed underachievers in an overachieving world--Jenna’s sister attends Yale at age 14--but though we’re told again and again, their dialogue and actions don’t bear this out. Dragged off to a place called Camp Fielding to explore their “potential,” they encounter a mish-mash of mysteries, none of which attain clarity. Among the clues: the smartest campers have left their cabins; girls sprout strange growths on their foreheads; a dead bird is found outside a cabin, all of which leads Jenna and Lucas to their discovery of the missing campers in a barn and some odd nefarious activities by camp directors. When the camp director admonishes, “We’re only trying to help you, Lucas… Do you really want to end up in prison like your dad?” it’s just one example of the heavy-handed exposition that mars the story. While readers may be pulled along by Hicks’s bright and expressive drawing, the workmanlike writing and rushed plotting won’t do much to keep them engaged. -- Publisher's Weekly
 
A quick and quirky graphic novel with a bit of an identity crisis. Two misfits, Jenna and Lucas, are sent to a summer-camp-of-last-resort by their respective, exasperated parents. Despite some hate-at-first-sight, the pair, in a predictable fashion, soon start up a friendship and eventually fall for one another. Unfortunately, something funny is going on at Camp Fielding: some kids disappear while others become suspiciously more intelligent. This is a fun story, one that moves well and is illustrated with excellent full-color artwork. But there is one issue that prevents the book from receiving top marks. Brain Camp appears to be targeted to a tween audience; the majority of it would be perfectly at place in a “Goosebumps” novel, complete with snappy banter, suspicious goings-on, and a handful of kids who save the day. Similarly, the book’s artwork would also appeal to younger children. However, a few scenes, including one wet dream sequence complete with stained underwear, place it in the teen section. -- School Library Journal

About the Author

Susan Kim has written for more than three dozen children’s TV series. This is her second graphic novel. Her first, also written with Mr. Klavan, was First Second’s City of Spies. Laurence Klavan has published two mystery novels. Mr. Klavan and Ms. Kim both live in New York City. Faith Erin Hicks is the author and artist of Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere. She lives in Nova Scotia.


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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing Campers Sept. 12 2010
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Reason for Reading: I really enjoy Canadian Faith Erin Hicks' work and just seeing she'd illustrated this book put it on my radar but once I'd read the plot I knew the story would be right up my alley.

This is a spooky, eerie, creepy, but fun little story that had the Twilight Zone theme music playing in my head at certain moments when sudden weird things were noticed. I had a great time reading this. Ms. Hicks' illustration is perfect for the theme, with her dark outlined characters, expressive faces and eyes that are always a bit too big for the heads. A full range of colour is used but the matching blue shirts of the campers are used to an added creepy effect and the startling bright monotones of sand for a flashback and green for a nightmare were very effective.

Both Jenna and Lucas end up at Camp Fielding because it is their parents last hope for them. They are both very smart but don't show it. Lucas is a slacker running with the wrong crowd and his alcoholic mother doesn't waste a moment letting him know how disappointing and stupid he is. Jenna, on the other hand, comes from a family of overachievers, both her parents are specialized doctors, her little sister is a genius planning her own specialized medical career, while Jenna just can't join the family game. She acts out, being silly, embarrassing her parents and doesn't bother to try to apply herself. Camp Fielding is an educational camp that is supposed to turn out geniuses. Both Jenna and Lucas are sent as a last resort. But things are not as they would have expected. They are only fed slop. Special campers are given ice cream treats for no particular reason. When Jenna's ice cream is stolen by another girl she finds her bunk mates are all sleeping like the dead.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fun story that everyone can read! Nov. 6 2013
By impearth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
kids and adults would love this story together ! good campfire take, halloween fun, or just for a gift! young teen audience, and the young at heart - thank you
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and strange Oct. 8 2012
By Brittany Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
enna and Luca's parents have had it. They want their children to start being more productive. They want geniuses. So when someone from Camp Fielding offers to take them and turn them into smart kids, each of their parents are eager to ship them off. Jenna and Lucas meet at Camp and immediately feel as though something isn't quite right. The sudden smartness and that strange building in the words make them think they need to find a way out and quick.

This was an interesting and odd graphic novel. I really liked the concept of the whole thing. I can't talk about too much without giving things away, but this is definitely worth the read. One thing I didn't care for was the minuscule love story in Brain Camp. Either add in some romance or leave it out, none of this brief intense stuff; it just seemed out of place. I could have handled if it was built up a little more (even though they only seemed to be at camp a short while). Lucas and Jenna were interesting characters and I wouldn't mind reading another story with them. Maybe they can solve other mysteries too at their next camp.

First Line:
"Elevation, 18 degrees...angle, 38 degrees...going north by north-west, it should be right over..."
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientists of all ages will love this book! Dec 3 2013
By Dana Biscotti Myskowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My step mother-in-law is a retired chemist. While I loved this book immensely, it was through her eyes and watching her enjoyment of the book that really got me to realize not only what a great story this is, but how empowering it is to people of all ages with a science-leaning. She read this in the summer; I saw the authors and had them sign my copy for her 83rd birthday this fall. Last weekend she told me she re-read this book, and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Her only concern was when the authors would pen another book like this or City of Spies. She'll be in for a surprise when I give her a signed copy of Wasteland by the writing team this Christmas!
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly dark for a teen comic July 7 2012
By ChibiNeko - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'd read this yesterday at the library after being overjoyed to randomly find it on the shelves. I've been wanting to read this for a while, having read and loved Friends with Boys by Erin Faith Hicks. For the most part, it lived up to the expectations.

I'll warn you, this is a surprisingly dark story. You'd kind of expect that, what with the idea of teens being sent to a camp that "reprograms" them to be Stepford children. I just wasn't expecting the level that I saw here, which was sort of nice. Many graphic novels aimed at teens tend to sugar coat or under develop anything that would make you squeamish, which can often end with the comic feeling that much harder to connect with.

The "big bad" was a little hard to swallow, though. I'm willing to go along with it, but it just seemed a little bit much at times. It didn't ruin the overall fun of the comic, so no big worries.

The artwork is what I really loved and I'm glad I read it. I'll continue to try to look for anything by Hicks- her artwork is wonderful and this fact alone made the graphic novel worth reading.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Smartly-Written, Fast-Paced Thriller May 4 2012
By DoubtingOThomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
From [...]- Jenna and Lucas are losers- at least that's what their parents think. So when they send them to Camp Fielding ("America's best new educational summer camp!") for the summer, the hope is that they'll return ready to go to Yale, or at least pass the SAT with flying colors. But something amiss is going on at Camp Fielding. Why are some campers failing miserably at the strange, higher-level-thinking activities while others are succeeding beyond expectations? Why are those who are doing well acting a little too much like zombies- really smart zombies? And why are some campers disappearing in the middle of the night, after they try the odd, pink-colored ice cream at dinner? These and more questions abound as Jenna and Lucas form a reluctant friendship to figure out what's going on. The odds are stacked against them, however, as the pace picks up and they are cornered at every turn by the grim, brooding camp counselor and a mounting army of the smarter campers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this smartly-written, fast-paced thriller of a story that is probably best for fans of Goosebumps who want something more mature. One of the things I truly reveled in is that this story knows what it is- a cheesy, fun mystery where weird things are expected to happen and do- and it focuses on doing that well without trying to be more than that. Of course, in the run of doing so, there is a nice, understated satire of the labels and expectations that we place on kids and teens and how they can take these definitions to heart. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Jenna, Lucas, and their friend Dwayne bond over sharing the labels their parents and other adults in their lives have given them: "Actually, I'm secretly `bright' but for some reason I'm a real `underachiever.'"

Faith Erin Hicks' illustrations help the story along tremendously, particularly when it comes to the weird parts. One scene in particular will have you slamming the book shut at first glance and then opening it back up slowly with one eye squinting because you can't resist the urge to see what happens. And that cover... how could you not pick up a book with such a creepily intriguing cover (The eyes! They're pure EVIL!)?

Overall, Brain Camp is a wonderful, short read that leaves out the boring bits and gives it's readers the stuff they came for. Plus, with summer just around the corner, it's the perfect mental warm up for one of the best parts about this season- late night ghost stories around the campfire. Come check it out and enjoy... but don't blame me if you can't sleep afterwards.

-Owen Gray
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