Children's Literature - Stephanie Dawley
In this age of "Gossip Girl" and "NYC Prep," Julie Kraut is doing her best to keep up. Slept Away is the classic tale a rich, spoiled girl removed from her comfort zone and forced to socialize with those she normally considers far beneath her. Laney Parker, the consummate city girl, is plucked from her upper-class home in New York City and dropped in the middle of wilderness hell, otherwise known as "Camp Timber Trails." With no cell phone, no Diet Coke and no chocolate to sustain her, and with a wardrobe picked out by her mother, Laney is sure she will perish before summer's end. And while she is used to being in the popular clique at home, here she is low man on the totem pole. Her loneliness is overwhelming until she connects with Sylviea surprisingly cool, if poorly dressed, bunkmate. Together they face the evil trio of "mean girls" they bunk with and plot to get Sylvie her first boyfriend. Along the way, Laney begins to consider that maybe, just maybe, the superficial and materialistic life she leads at home isn't the only way to be. Kraut's endless array of pop culture references are a bit over the top in this novel and might limit its readership to a particular portion of the teenage population. It is, however, a fun, light read with a charming and witty main character. Perfect for a summer day lounging by the pool. Reviewer: Stephanie Dawley
School Library Journal
Gr 8–10—Fifteen-year-old Laney has plenty to complain about, but readers will tire of her whining and foul language long before the end of her six weeks at a truly abominable summer camp. She starts out as a Manhattan diva with friends who drink too much, then displays the interests of a tween. Jonas Brothers, Disney TV-movies, and a blankie? Her three nasty bunkmates—Aiden, Aidan, and Hayden—wear shorts with suggestive words across their butts, and her cabin leader is a perky pest. Her other bunk mate, Sylvie, who is slightly more rounded, becomes her best friend. Despite camp rules that keep girls and boys separate except for special events, Laney decides to get Sylvie a boyfriend. She finds herself falling for Ryan, a guy she's secretly liked but who is an outcast from her cool crowd in New York. Here in the Poconos, he passes for the hottest thing at camp. To the author's credit, camp activities never improve for Laney but having two friends makes all the difference. That touch of realism and some funny lines and situations are not enough to make up for the unbelievable plot and lack of character development.—Tina Zubak, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Read an Excerpt
“OK, look at that girl over there,” Kennedy directed. She pulled her Diors down her nose a bit so I could see her eyes gesturing over to a girl in a tankini lying out across the pool. “Total brownout.”
I took a peek over at the napping tankini-ed stranger.
“Brownout” is a term we coined for a girl who was totally hot because she was blond, but if you put brown hair on her, she’d just be normal to fugly. And the truth is that you can’t tell someone’s brownout status from far away. You need to get a good look at her face. But Kennedy had just recently decided to go dark and was trying to convince herself that she and Cameron Diaz were the only two women on planet
Earth who look hotter as brunettes. So I nodded, agreeing to the brownout situation across the pool, not sure if by bashing every woman who dared to look good blond in Manhattan I was enabling the rapid growth of a cancerous mega-ego or just easing a friend through a bad hair period.
“Yeah, highlights are definitely God’s gift to some women,” she said with disdain. As if three weeks ago she hadn’t been one of those plebes who enjoyed the exponential hottening factor of professionally applied peroxide.
I sighed, running my hand through my head of what I was trying to sun-bleach into auburn waves, but was really just plain brown and in a sweaty tangle. My mom thought fifteen was too young for highlights and had denied me the parental credit card for a salon trip more times than Nicole Richie has denied anorexia allegations. And after one attempted at-home highlights session left me looking streakier than the love child of Kelly Clarkson and bargain-brand glass cleaner, I realized that I was just going to have to wait for college to fully research the age-old question of whether blondes really do have more fun.
Was I seriously thinking about this? Not even a full two hours ago I was double-checking the sines and cosines on my trig final–which I dominated, thank you very much– and now I’m considering how hair color affects your general sense of amusement? It’s like after a hard-core round of studying and testing, my brain just isn’t capable of real thinking and I sink to the level of a VH1 reality show contestant for a few hours. Whatever. I definitely deserved some chill time after trig. Taking advantage of Ken’s mom’s Soho House membership for the afternoon was the perfect way to do it.
I flipped over to my stomach, smushed my cheek into my towel in a way that I knew was going to give me an acnelooking imprint when I got up, and closed my eyes for an afternoon nap. But just as I was starting to doze, I heard Kennedy yell, “Hey, bitch!” She was completely unaware of how loud she was being, thanks to whatever guyliner band she was iPoding into her ears.
“Your mom’s here?” I swear I didn’t mean for that to come out. It’s just that I was in that halfway-to-sleep level of consciousness where I have absolutely no filter. And as much as I loved Kennedy–we’ve been friends since Baby Gym, where my mom took me and her babysitter took her– her family still scared me after all these years. It’s like the Nanny Diaries family except for there’s no one playing the Laura Linney desperate housewife role. Kennedy’s parents were divorced, and both were these crazy career-driven, emotionless, would-probably-sell-their daughters-for-theirorgans-if-they-could-make-a-nice-profit human ice sculptures with dyed jet black hair in one of those super-blunt bobs with straight-across bangs. OK, that last part was just her mom. But still, her mom hadn’t warmed to me at all in the past fourteen and a half years. And I was seriously cute in grammar school. It was pretty impossible not to fall in love with my fatty cheeks, but Mrs. McEllen managed not to.
“No, my mom’s at work, duh,” Kennedy replied to my half-conscious, all subconscious comment. “Why’d you ask?” For the record, I believe that we all have different gifts. And I also believe that my best friend’s most bountiful gift wasn’t wit. But she was really good at burping the ABCs, so it all evened out. “I’m thinking that I should try and convince Conrad to have a little summer kickoff soiree. What do you think?” she asked. She dove into her bag to pull out her phone before I’d even answered.
Conrad was Kennedy’s loving boyfriend slash total dick ex, depending on the day, or on some days, depending on the hour. This had been going on since the very first weeks of freshman year, and after two years, I was pretty fed up with the Kennedy/Conrad time bomb. But she’s my best friend, so fed up or not, I had to be there with her every time she set the bomb, every time she watched that bomb tick down to zero, and every time it exploded. It’s probably what it would be like to be Britney’s personal assistant. Except I don’t get paid. Or a tell-all book deal.
“Wouldn’t a Conrad bash be awesome this weekend?” she prodded before hitting dial.
“Totally,” I said. And it would. No matter how much I hated the romantic hostage situation he was holding Kennedy in, it’s a fact that Conrad has the best parties in Manhattan. Well, the best parties for the sixteen-and-under crowd in Manhattan.
Kennedy suddenly stopped her chatter with Conrad and turned to me. “He’s totally down to play host this weekend, just needs to know which day. What do you think, Laney P., would more peeps show up tomorrow or Sunday night?”
Even the thought of a party on Sunday night was enough to induce a panic attack for me. Hello! Was I the only person left in the Manhattan private school system who had a mom who wouldn’t let her out on school nights?
My mom would flip before I could even start the curfew negotiation. And she totally wouldn’t care that we were done with finals and that all we’d be doing on Monday was watching Stand and Deliver while the teachers graded, which pretty much took the attention span of a drunk monkey. I could already hear her start in on the “fifteen-year-olds and gallivanting on Sunday nights don’t mix” tirade. To be honest, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what gallivanting was, and to be even more honest, even though I’m technically fifteen, I’m pretty much already sixteen. Everyone else in my class is, and my birthday’s in November, which is practically right around the corner. I definitely act just as mature as my friends. But somehow, bringing up the “sixteen at heart” argument never seemed like a good idea when my mom was in Mominator mode.
From the Trade Paperback edition.