A recently adopted refugee who was the sole survivor of an attack on his village in an unnamed country goes to Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys with his new brother in Andrew Smith’s YA novel The Alex Crow.
The camp is purportedly for boys addicted to video games and other technology to detox, but the science fiction elements of the story suggest there might be some other ulterior motive behind the camp and the shadowy company that runs it. In direct contrast to the worlds many of the campers immerse themselves in in video games, Camp Merrie-Seymour is intentionally lo-tech with mosquito infested cabins, crappy food and disinterested counselors.
The counselor of the cabin Jupiter, where the recently adopted Ahriel and his new brother Max stay, has no business being in charge of teenagers. Shortly after arriving, Ahriel immediately hates camp so much he wishes he were back in the refrigerator where he hid during the raid of his village that killed his family and friends.
As anyone who has been around summer camp before can predict, Ahriel does manage to change his tune in spite of the camp and especially in spite of his counselor as he begins to bond with a bunkmates and his brother finally starts to warm up to him.
The central camp storyline is one of a few storylines in the book that are connected in ways that initially don’t make any sense but come together in the end. The other storylines interspersed tell the story of an Arctic expedition in the 1800s, recount what happened to Ahriel in between his time hiding in a refrigerator and arriving in West Virginia and follow the U-haul travels of a crazed man named Leonnard Fountain, who is literally melting while being tortured by the voice of Joseph Stalin telling him to do terrible things and another voice that narrates his every move.
If you’re confused, don’t worry. I was too when I read the description of the book and was skeptical at first. I came for the summer camp storyline, but ended up being just as equally intrigued and amused with the other elements of the story and the way author Andrew Smith connects all of the stories into a dramatic conclusion. The science fiction elements weren’t always to my liking – clearly I’m not the intended audience of this book – but the camp storyline and particularly the depiction of the colorful and crude campers in the Jupiter cabin make for an entertaining read, particularly for a male audience.