Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
It begins with the cover. All the trauma, drama, insecurities of summer camp are perfectly captured in this image. She’s got the gear, all the gear. She’s got the uniform with requisite badges. She’s got the wilderness setting, complete with flags and tents and little critters.
But wait. She's got a look that seems to cry out "Help!"
This is NOT at all what she signed up for. Not. At. All.
Vera had heard the stories of camp and was sure that a summer experience was what she desperately needed. With a great deal of coaxing, her mother relented and signed Vera and brother up for Russian camp. Certain that this would be the experience she envisioned, she set off with high hopes.
In a strange twist of fate, her brother who initially protested the idea of summer camp, instantly took to the experience and dived right in. Vera, on the other hand was having a miserable experience. No friends, mean girls, unfamiliar routines: this just wasn't working out. Unfortunately, it is too late. Mom has deposited the siblings and Vera is stuck at a summer camp for children of Russian heritage.
Kudos to Brosgol for predominantly featuring Russian culture. From occasionally use of Cyrillic alphabet, depictions of Russian Orthodox services and icons, and traditional foods, she brings her heritage to the forefront.
It was a little pocket of Russia, a familiar place in a strange land.
Russian camp setting notwithstanding, this dramatic recreation of real-life youth camp transcends a specific culture. Vera's story will resonate with all youngsters who feel different but want to be accepted and included.
So you're making some friends, huh?