Here’s Your First Look at L.C. Rosen’s Gloriously Gay YA Novel “Camp”

Pack your bags for a trip to Camp Outland in Rosen's highly anticipated follow-up to "Jack of Hearts (and other parts)."

Out author Lev “L.C.” Rosen became a household name in LGBTQ Young Adult fiction with Jack of Hearts (and other parts), his 2018 novel from Little, Brown Young Readers billed as “Riverdale meets Love, Simon.” Now, he’s following up with Camp, his forthcoming YA novel about gay teen Randy “Del” Kapplehoffand and his adventures at Camp Outland, a summer camp for LGBTQ youth.

“To me, Camp is about the idea of the ’special gay’—that gay man that straight people point to and say, ’He’s the right way to be gay,’ and how we gay men (especially when we’re young) can really internalize that,” Rosen tells NewNowNext. “This is particularly true when it comes from family, which makes us try to perform this ’special gay’ role instead of being ourselves. If we spend all our time performing this identity that other people have chosen for us, we don’t get to try on identities and find ourselves the way that straight teens do. I wanted to play with the idea of what it would be like to take on that role as an actual performance, knowing it’s not who you are… and I wanted to write a queer YA contemporary version of a ’60s Doris Day-Rock Hudson-type sex comedy.”

Say no more. In a NewNowNext exclusive, find the cover and a never-before-seen excerpt from Camp, out May 26, 2020, from Little, Brown Young Readers.

Little, Brown and Company

The smell wraps around me like a reunion between old friends when I step off the bus. That dark soil smell, but mixed with something lighter. Something green that immediately makes me think of leaves in rain, or trees in the wind. I love this smell. I love it every summer. It’s the smell of freedom. Not that stupid kayaking-shirtless-in-a-Viagra-commercial freedom. That’s for straight people. This is different. It’s the who-cares-if-your-wrists-are-loose freedom. The freedom from having two seniors the table over joke about something being “so gay” at lunch.

Several tables are set out next to the parking lot, a big banner hanging over them: WELCOME TO CAMP OUTLAND.

This year, I admit, it smells a little different. Maybe not quite as free. But I knew it would be like this when I came up with my plan. This smell, I hope—slightly less pine, a bit more grass, the barest whiff of daisy, which I could be imagining—this is the smell of love.

“Keep it moving, keep it moving,” Joan, the camp director, calls out to us as we step off the bus we’ve been traveling in for the last several hours, waving her hands like a traffic cop. “Tables are by age—find your age, go to that table to register.”

I look for the table that says 16 and wait in line. I run my hands over my newly shortened hair. Until two days ago, it had been chin length and wavy and super cute, if I do say so myself, but I needed to lose it for the plan to work. The line of campers moves forward and I’m at the front, staring down at Mark, the theater counselor—my counselor. I think he’s in his forties, gray at the temples, skin that’s a little too tan for a white guy, wearing the Camp Outland polo, big aviator sunglasses, and a pin that says THEATER GAY in sparkly rainbow letters. This will be the big test. He looks up at me, and for a moment, there’s a flash, like he recognizes me, but then he squints, confused.

“What’s your name, honey?” he asks.

I smile. Not my usual big grin; I’ve been working on changing it. Now it’s more like a smirk.

“Randall,” I say. “Randall Kapplehoff.”

“Randy?” He practically shouts it, looking me over again as he stands up. “Oh my god, what happened to you?”

“Puberty,” I say, now smiling my real smile. I look around, bring it back to smirk.

“Honey, you were a baritone last summer, this isn’t puberty,” he says. “I barely recognized you.”

Good, I think. That’s the point.

“I just thought it was time for a change,” I say.

“Were you being bullied?” he asks, concerned eyes peeking over his sunglasses.

“No.” I shake my head. “Just…wanted to try something new.”

“Well,” Mark says, sitting down. “It’s certainly new. I hope you haven’t changed so much you’re not auditioning for the show this summer, though.”

“We’ll see,” I say.

He frowns and flips through the pages on his clipboard. “Well, at least you’ll still be hanging out with us. You’re in cabin seven.” He takes a name tag label out from the back of his clipboard and writes a big R on it before I think to stop him.

“Actually,” I say, putting out a hand, “it’s Del now.”

He peeks up at me over the sunglasses again. “Del?”

“Yeah.” I nod, chin first. “I’m Del.”

“Okay,” he says like he doesn’t believe me, and writes it out on a new name tag sticker and hands it to me. I press it over my chest, rubbing it in, hoping it will stick. “Well, I’m going to have to talk to my therapist about this later,” he says to himself. Then he glances at his watch and turns back to me. “Flagpole meet-up is at eleven. So, go pick a bunk and be there in twenty minutes.”

“Thanks,” I say.

“Later…Del,” he says.

I walk back over to the bus where our bags have been unloaded and pick up the big military surplus bag I bought online. The purple wheely bag with the stickers of cats wearing tiaras on it wasn’t going to work this summer. Neither was having my parents drop me off. I think that made them a little sad. Camp Outland had been their idea four years ago, after I came out. Not many other twelve-year-olds were talking about how dreamy and cute Skylar Astin was in Pitch Perfect 2, and how I hoped my boyfriend would look like him someday, so they thought it would be good for me to meet some other queer kids, and they found Camp Outland—a four-week sleepaway summer camp for LGBTQIA+ teens nestled in the woods of northern Connecticut.

And let’s be honest. It was an amazing idea. Every summer has been better than the last. But this summer is going to be the best. Because this summer, Hudson Aaronson-Lim is going to fall in love with me.

Camp is out May 26, 2020, from Little, Brown Young Readers.

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