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Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe: 07/21/20

Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe

Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe by Sarah Mlynowski is a companion piece to I See London, I See France (2017). Sam, the protagonist, is the girlfriend of Eli, one of the Americans Sydney and Leela meet midway through the novel. The hot sailing instructor, Gavin, is the boyfriend of Kat, the woman they stay with in Paris. That said, both books stand alone just fine and can be read separately or in either order.

Samantha "Sam" Rosenspan has been invited by "Danish" to work as a camp counselor for the junior girls in Bunk 6. She'll be there for six weeks, slightly longer than Eli's backpacking trip through Europe. She'll have the same group of girls and the same counselor bunkmates for the entire time.

Sam's initial motivation is lingering embarrassment over her one disastrous summer at this camp. She was bullied by one of the campers and given a terrible nickname. She's working in terror that her nickname will resurface or that she's recapitulate the same clumsy move that earned her the nickname.

Mostly though the novel is about the dynamics of the Bunk 6 counselors and the girls. Sam finds herself defending Janelle, a free thinking oddball, against the disapproving so-called popular counselors: Lis and Talia. Lis, especially, holds a grudge because Sam arrived a day late, thus leaving all the pre-camp work to her and the other two.

The juniors, who are upper elementary aged, are a mixed bag of chaos. They remind me fondly of the red heads in Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir (2020).

Like the original book, Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe is marketed as YA, but it reads like NA. Sam and her cohorts are adults. They're in college. Yes, they're too young to drink in the United States, but most of them do, in moderation and now while working. Yes, they're sexually active and yes, those hookups have consequences. But they are adults.

Five stars

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