May 5, 2015
SVT Super Edition #3, The Big Camp Secret: Saving Grace
Summary: For their 86th summer, the twins are going to camp for two weeks. Amy and Ellen are also attending, but Lila skips out at the last minute in favor of a trip to Paris. That seems like a much more Lila-like vacation than camp. I can’t imagine she’s a big fan of the outdoors. Anyway, that’s not really important; it just leaves an empty bed in the cabin. A friend of the twins’ named Grace was supposed to go to camp, too, but her parents are possibly getting divorced and Grace doesn’t want to bring up camp in case it makes them fight. They want to take separate vacations and leave her with her godmother. I don’t get why she can’t go to camp if they’re going to be gone themselves. This whole setup is really dumb.
So the girls go to camp, where they first thing their counselor is an annoying girl named Tina. Jessica short-sheets her bed, because in teen books, someone always knows how to short-sheet a bed. I remember reading how to do it, either in a BSC book or in the Paula Danziger book There’s a Bat in Bunk Five, but without a visual example, I completely forgot about it. Fortunately, though, the annoying girl isn’t a counselor; the girls instead get Jamie, a nice girl who seems perfectly suited for this job.
Really, the whole camp sounds like a preteen’s dream. There are tons of activities, no one seems forced into doing stuff they don’t want to do, the food isn’t too horrible, and almost everyone is nice. There’s only one problem: The boys’ camp is on the other side of the lake, and there’s no comingling. Jessica wants the two camps to have a dance, and she spends most of the book trying to drum up support. Of course Jess can’t go two weeks without male attention. She asks the camp director, Mrs. Edwards, about having a dance, and Mrs. Edwards says she’ll think about it.
At a campfire, Mrs. Edwards tells a ghost story about a nearby hill called Crying Moon Mountain. Two people were in love, they couldn’t be together, one of them died, etc. There’s supposedly a ghost in the cabin on the mountain. Elizabeth and Amy think that’s dumb, so Jessica peer-pressures them into checking the cabin out in the middle of the night. Now Elizabeth wishes she’d kept her mouth shut. During a treasure hunt, the girls meet another camper named Barbara, who’s apparently the only girl at camp who isn’t nice. She thinks everyone is beneath her, and she seems to be allergic to fun. Even Elizabeth can’t stand her.
That night, Elizabeth and Amy climb the hill to the cabin. Jessica accidentally scares them when she decides to tag along, feeling bad that she made them go up in the middle of the night. In the cabin, the girls are scared again when they learn it’s not empty. But there’s no ghost – it’s just Grace. She hopped on a bus to camp instead of going off with her godmother, who thinks she’s on a cruise with her mom. She’s staying in the cabin so no one knows she’s a camp stowaway.
The other girls want Grace to be able to experience camp like everyone else, so they take turns skipping activities and letting Grace participate in their place. She’s able to hide in plain sight by keeping her face hidden when Jamie’s around, or pretending she’s just staying in another cabin. Everyone who finds out plays along, because who doesn’t want the poor, sad kid to have a good time?
Well, Barbara, that’s who. She hates her cabin-mates, and she wants to bunk with the twins and their friends. She threatens to rat out Grace if they don’t let her move in and take Lila’s unused bed. The girls have no choice but to give in. Unfortunately, this gives Barbara the freedom to make them do her bidding in all sorts of ways. Instead of dressing up as hula dancers for a luau, they have to dress as clowns. And she throws a game of Capture the Flag just for the heck of it. I don’t know why you’d want to have a bunch of people you’re living with mad at you, but Barbara makes no sense anyway.
Somewhere in here, Jessica starts to circulate a petition to garner interest in her dance idea. Once a bunch of girls have signed, she decides to get some boys’ signatures. She paddles a canoe across the lake and hands off her petition to some boys, including Bruce and Jerry McAllister. They couldn’t care less about a dance, but a cute boy named Sandy shows some interest in both the dance and Jessica. Leave it to Jess to make a love connection while attending an all-girls camp.
Grace is apparently a pretty good artist, and she makes a sculpture of a horse. She and her friends are sad that she can’t enter it into a competition. The day of the contest, the girls see that Barbara has entered the sculpture of her own. She wins, and everyone decides this is the last straw. She’s been too mean to everyone, and now she’s stolen Grace’s artwork and put her own name on it. Barbara retaliates by threatening to out Grace if Jessica’s dance goes forward.
Grace is upset over all the trouble her presence has caused, and she decides she should leave camp and take away Barbara’s power. Her friends decide to leave her alone for the night; hopefully she’ll feel better in the morning and rejoin the camp activities. Meanwhile, Mrs. Edwards asks Jessica about the dance petition. Jess never told the boys that it was a secret, so they started bugging their counselors about when the dance was. The counselors asked Mrs. Edwards, who was confused because she’d never officially approved the dance. But it’s all good because she’d already decided it was a good idea. The dance is on, and Barbara can’t do anything about it, so nyah nyah.
Just before the dance, Barbara delivers a note she found from Grace, explaining that she’s going to walk to the bus station and go home. But there’s a huge thunderstorm, and the girls worry about her walking around while it’s unsafe outside. They call the bus station to find out if she’s gotten there, but she never showed up. The twins decide it’s time to tell Jamie and Mrs. Edwards what they’ve been hiding. The grownups aren’t pleased with the fact that Grace has been attending camp without her parents’ knowledge, but they’re more worried about finding her.
Everyone forms search parties, but Barbara can’t stop being a jerk for two seconds, so no one wants her to join them. She runs off, which means there are now two missing girls. Good job, Barbara! She heads up to the cabin, where she’s been hanging out during the day, crying over letters from her parents. Barbara’s parents, like Grace’s, are having a lot of problems, and they snark about each other to their daughter. So we’re supposed to feel bad for Barbara, because she has trouble at home, and I guess that’s supposed to excuse her horrible behavior.
It turns out that Grace is still at the cabin – she decided to wait out the storm there, then hurt her ankle and had no choice about leaving. She didn’t realize that people were looking for her. Barbara tries to make amends by revealing that she entered the sculpture in the contest so Grace could get the prize. Things are going well until Barbara learns that Grace read her parents’ letters. She’s too mad to care that Grace can relate, and could probably use someone to talk to who understands what she’s going through.
Barbara opts for the dramatic storm-out, but suddenly lightning strikes the cabin and it catches on fire. She runs back in to get Grace, who has somehow already passed out from smoke inhalation. Grace is so grateful that she no longer cares that Barbara is a brat. And now that Barbara’s received some positive attention, she’s okay. Grace’s parents are summoned to camp, and she finally tells them how she feels and stuff. She could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if she’d just talked in the first place instead of worrying about upsetting people.
Grace is allowed to finish out the camp session, which probably won’t be much fun with an injured ankle. While she’s reuniting with her parents, her friends are clueless about what’s been going on – all they know is that Grace was in the cabin when it caught fire, and Barbara was somehow involved. Barbara comes to tell them everything, but everyone’s mad at her and yells at her for a little while. Then everyone else leaves to see Grace, and Jessica tries to kick Barbara out of the cabin, throwing her things outside.
Grace tells everyone what happened, and how Barbara saved her life. Then she urges Barbara to tell all the other girls about her family troubles so they’ll understand why she’s been acting the way she does. They’ll probably still hate her, though. I guess then everyone forgives everyone, and all the girls enjoy the rest of their time at camp. And, of course, they get to go to the dance. Barbara makes a love connection with Jerry. Good for her? Now I just want to reread There’s a Bat in Bunk Five.
Thoughts: The girls get to put sheets on their beds instead of using sleeping bags. What kind of fancy camp is this?
They play Capture the Flag wrong. You’re not supposed to know where the other team’s flag is.
Barbara may be having a rough time at home, but being nasty without provocation is a good way to lose my sympathy. “They had started silly rumors about her, saying she was mean.” They’re not rumors if you’re actually mean, you brat. You can’t be mean to people and then complain when they’re mean back.
“It’s not a crime to have trouble at home.” Grace, please repeat that over and over through the rest of the series and into SVH.