From the back of the book:
Henry Lambert would rather play video games than spend time in the great outdoors – but that doesn’t make him a wuss. Skinny nerd? Fine. But wuss is a little harsh. Sadly, his dad doesn’t agree. Which is why Henry is being shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp.
Strongwoods isn’t exactly as advertised. It looks like the victim of a zombie apocalypse, the “camp director” is a psycho drill sergeant, and Henry’s sure he saw a sign written in blood…
When the publisher contacted me about reviewing this book on my blog, I was intrigued. Books about camp always do this to me – I loved camp as a kid and worked at one in the summers as a teen. These are a good way to revisit my time at camp – even if I never had to attend survival camp.
I really like the humour that Strand brought to this book. There were parts in this book that actually had me giggling out loud while reading this in public. A projectile vomit competition because the campers drank non-purified water? Totally not something that you would expect to come across, and yet so utterly fitting for this book!
I like that this book didn’t name too many actual video games – I think this makes the book a lot better as it pertains to not going out of date so quickly. Video games and sequels come out frequently enough that if a specific Call of Duty or Elder Scrolls was mentioned (for example), in a few years time, the current age group reading this may not be as familiar with that particular game. Same with the lack of talking about one platform over others – this could be relatable to computer gamers, Playstation or Xbox gamers.
Henry, the main character, is relatable and someone that you want to get behind and cheer on. While he starts as a slightly incompetent camper, when the stakes are really raised (i.e. when a group of gangsters overrun their camp), Henry becomes the unlikely leader of the group… and it may only have been by default (as he was the only one who actually had interaction with them at first), but putting him in that leadership role certainly allowed for some awesome character growth. Not that he becomes super suave non-video game nerd – he’s still definitely the video game nerd, but with a bit of backbone and kick ass in him.
The additional campers in this book felt a little one dimensional, but they worked well to showcase both Henry’s original mediocrity, and the the courage Henry grows throughout the book. Max, the camp director, is the other shining star in this book – he is absolutely hilarious and the driving force behind Henry’s transformation.
One of the great things about this book that it was practically running right from the first page. It was really well paced; there weren’t any areas that dragged at all. In fact, it was hard to find a good place to put the book down, because even a lot of the chapters ended on cliffhangers, which just made me want to keep on reading.
The one thing that didn’t particularly work for me with this book was the asides with “Rad Rad Rogers”, who is reporting on the movie that was created based on the I Have a Bad Feeling About This book. While they were humorous, I found that for me they interrupted the flow of the story.
The Bottom Line
Highly enjoyable. I’d recommend especially for middle grade or young teen guys. Personally, I’ll be looking forward to reading more books by Strand.