I’m always looking for good books for my middle school children to read. Even as a math teacher, sometimes they finish their work early and need a good book recommendation. As far as books for middle school students go, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork is the quintessential coming-of-age story for adolescents who are trying to find themselves. At the heart of the story is a girl named Lucy who is not really (but really) secretly in love with her friend Sam. When she agrees to go to Camp Paleo at his urging, she assumes she’s spending the summer with her “pack” only find out that Sam has backed out of Camp Paleo to go to gymnastics camp. What’s a girl to do?
With the rest of her pack with her and her grandma serving as lunch lady and future love interest of the camp leader, Lucy attempts to entertain herself and please others by becoming a matchmaker. She winds up trying to find herself while also battling with feelings that she isn’t ready to feel about Sam. When her “pack” falls apart, Lucy tries to make sense of it all and fix the friendships she ultimately puts in jeopardy by her meddling. The question for the reader becomes whether or not she is too late to mend all the hearts she has broken.
Vrabel does a great job depicting the emotion that comes during the middle school years and the conflicts that arise between friends. She creates a good amount of suspense when campers’ jewelry comes up missing and Lucy is the main suspect. Reading this book will have your middle schooler wondering whether Lucy can make amends with her friends and find the true jewelry thief or whether she is doomed to be alone forever. The lessons that are inherent in the theme of the story are great ones for young children to learn about making friends and the value of honesty and trust in friendship, but these themes do not spoil the storyline.
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Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans—becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater—didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. She is the author of the Pack of Dorks series and A Blind Guide to Stinkville and A Blind Guide to Normal (October 2016). Beth lives with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two fat guinea pigs in Connecticut.
You can also find a copy of Pack of Dorks on Amazon and anywhere major books are sold.