About the Book
A girl with an eating disorder, in denial and angry at God. A camp director with a handful of ropes, two cardboard cutouts figures, and a radical plan to touch the hearts of the campers. An athletic hunk, a stolen hat, and a flaw-filled prank that has the entire camp in an uproar. This summer, lives are about to change forever.
The last place Kelly Martin wants to spend her summer vacation is volunteering at a Christian camp. But it’s either that or be forced by her parents into a program for girls with eating disorders.
Prepared to be surrounded by religious fanatics, Kelly is surprised to meet genuine friends who pull her into the first crazy prank of the summer. Even more unexpected is the handsome counselor who starts looking her way.
But it is the radical campfire talks that touch her heart most of all, sparking a longing for change. But that would mean trusting God. And Kelly vowed she’d never do that again.
The early-morning sun streamed through the kitchen windows above the sink but couldn’t drive the chill from the room. A shiver ran through Kelly’s body, and a strand of long brown hair fell across her eyes. She brushed it away and focused her attention on her father as he placed a set of pale-green luggage in the center of the room. She’d been expecting a moment like this for the last few weeks. And now it was here.
Kelly perched on the edge of the wooden chair, her back stiff and straight as she stared at the bags. The suitcases seemed to crouch together, as if preparing to attack and drag her away.
“Why is my luggage out of storage?” Kelly turned to her mother, seated across the table. “I thought we had a deal. If I improved, you wouldn’t send me to the hospital program.” She braced herself for a fight.
“Improved?” Her father snorted as he took a seat beside his wife. “Gaining half a pound is hardly progress.”
It could have been. At least if it were true. But she hadn’t even improved that much. However, now was not the time to confess that she’d manipulated the results.
“We’re not sending you to the teen recovery center.” Her mom concentrated on pouring a small amount of milk into a steaming mug of coffee. With slow and deliberate movements, she picked up a spoon and stirred. “Your father and I met with your counselor last week. She’s heard great things about a church camp that’s not too far from here.”
So she wasn’t being rushed off to the eating-disorder intervention program. Kelly relaxed, but only slightly. Camp was still a form of punishment. Most likely for what happened last weekend.
Kelly’s mom gave her a tentative smile. She slid a plate with a banana and a blueberry muffin toward Kelly, who ignored it.
“I’m too old for camp.” She was also too old to have her mother feed her. Especially since she’d stopped eating breakfast months ago, along with every other meal she could skip.
Kelly’s mother leaned back, a frown creasing her brow. “The counselor recommended that you work there as a volunteer for the summer.”
Two whole months? No way. Being stuck at some religious camp would ruin all her plans.
Her mom raised the cup to her lips and took a sip. “You can’t spend your vacation sitting around with nothing to do.”
No fear of that. Kelly had already planned an intense summer program of daily hikes, bike rides, and speed walks. Of course, all that exercise would be worse, in her mom’s eyes, than doing nothing. Particularly if she lost more weight.
But Kelly knew the plan to send her off to camp wasn’t just about keeping her busy. It was also about keeping her away from her friends—and her boyfriend, in particular. Or ex-boyfriend, thanks to the disaster last Saturday night.
“I’m not qualified.” Kelly took a deep, steadying breath. She wasn’t about to surrender without a fight. “I don’t know anything about church camps. I’ve never even been to one.”
Kelly’s father dismissed the argument with a wave of his hand. “Experience isn’t necessary. The director told us they offer a two-day training program that will cover everything you’ll need to know.”
Kelly shook her head as she imagined a cabin full of hyper campers. “What if the kids don’t like me and beg for a new counselor?”
Her mother gave a faint laugh. “Don’t be so melodramatic. All the neighborhood children adore you. You’re the first person who gets called whenever someone needs a babysitter.”
That was true. And Kelly did enjoy hanging out with all her little buddies. But she couldn’t let her mother’s compliment sway her. Kelly turned a wary eye to the suitcases. The bright rays of sunshine glinted off the partially open zippers, making the silver rows of metal gleam like razor-sharp teeth.
“You’ll be a sophomore next year,” her father cut in. “Time to think about college applications. Volunteer experience looks great on a resume.”
That was her dad, always practical and thinking of the future. But Kelly was thinking ahead too. And this was about more than the summer. Her social future was at stake if she couldn’t patch things up with Aaron. The icy fingers of panic seized her, and she found it hard to breathe. She couldn’t imagine her world without him.
Kelly scrambled for a different tactic. “But I won’t know anyone at camp.”
Her father raised an eyebrow. “Considering how much time you spend on the phone, I’d say you don’t have a problem making friends. And this will give you the chance to make some new ones.”
But that was the point. She already had plenty of friends, although lately they’d been blowing away like dry leaves in a windstorm. Which wasn’t too surprising. Just the natural consequence of being dumped by the most popular guy at school. Even if she could use some new friends, she didn’t want to meet them at some stupid camp. Especially since anyone working there was likely to be a boring spiritual nut.
Kelly looked straight into her father’s eyes. “Are you punishing me for what happened with Aaron?”
Her father’s hand came down hard on the table. “Aaron is a different matter, and we’ve already dealt with him.”
Yes, they had. By forbidding all contact with him. Of course, Kelly had no intention of obeying, which they’d probably already guessed. It’s not like they could stop her, unless they sent her away. Which was exactly what they were doing.
“I know I broke a bunch of rules, but it’s not what you think.”
“Really? You stole my brand-new car, snuck off to a party, and your drunk boyfriend almost drove you home. Did I get anything wrong?” Her father leaned forward.
Yes. No. Kelly studied the floor. Telling the truth now would only make things worse. At least for Aaron. And she wasn’t a snitch.
“Don’t I get any credit for calling home?” Kelly spat out the words.
Her mom took a sharp breath. “Thank God you did, or someone might have been hurt. Even killed.”
Kelly shuddered as she remembered the expression on her parents’ faces when they arrived at the party and found her dad’s Corvette Sting Ray parked in the driveway with a seriously hammered Aaron behind the wheel, keys in hand, and her in the passenger seat. The hurt in her mother’s eyes. Like she didn’t recognize her own daughter. And her father’s barely-controlled fury as he pulled Aaron out of the car.
“Don’t even try to tell me it’s not what I think.” Her father’s voice cracked. “I know what I saw.”
Maybe, but he’d missed a few things. Like the fact that she was already crying when they drove up, and not just after she’d been caught. And she’d been trying to grab the keys away from Aaron, not pass them to him.
In a last-ditch effort, Kelly launched her final weapon. Brutal honesty. “You think some lame religious camp is going to fix me. I’m not broken, and I don’t need help.”
An awkward silence descended on the kitchen. Kelly’s mother lifted the cup to her lips, but her hands shook and brown liquid dripped over the side. She lowered the mug and glanced at Kelly’s father.
Watching them through narrowed eyes, Kelly felt a stab of remorse for causing her parents so much grief over the last year. They thought they were being discreet, but she’d overheard the whispered conversations. And their desperate prayers.
Kelly’s mother turned toward her, mouth set in a firm line. “The hospital called last night to tell us that a spot opened up in the treatment center for eating disorders.”
“But you just said you wouldn’t make me go.” The words tumbled out of Kelly’s mouth. She didn’t belong there. Just because some doctor said she was anorexic didn’t make it true. Sure, she’d lost some weight over the last year. Okay, a lot of weight. But all the popular girls were skinny, and that’s what guys like Aaron found attractive. She knew exactly what she was doing.
“We aren’t sending you…at least not yet.” Kelly’s mother cleared her throat. “I told the hospital we’d already signed you up for summer camp. But I can call back and tell them we changed our minds.”
There was no way out. She was being sent away, and her only choices were a religious camp or a treatment center. Kelly shot her mother a scathing look. “I’ll take camp.”
Her mom nodded. “Training starts on Friday. That’s just two days from now. Why don’t you go upstairs and start thinking about what you’d like to pack.”
Kelly could have sworn she heard a snarl coming from the suitcases. And the sound of metal jaws snapping shut on her summer.
About the Author
Working with teenagers has been a passion for Galynne Matichuk, and she has over three decades of experience with young people in a variety of settings.
Galynne has nineteen years of middle and high school teaching experience in public schools in Canada and a private Christian school in the United States. She spent twelve summers working at summer camps, during which time she was a counselor, canoeing instructor, and camp speaker. For two years, Galynne worked with Teen Time, an inner-city teen ministry.
Galynne has enjoyed speaking at several camps, churches, and had the privilege of leading several seminars at the California conference for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) in California.
Galynne recently began working with the T. R. A. C. program (Teen Reach Adventure Camp, specifically designed for youth ages 12-15 in foster care) as a counsellor and camp speaker.
Currently Galynne works as a substitute teacher in the Issaquah School District and has self-published a Kindle book entitled: How to Bond with Your Child Through Books: One Family’s Plan to Read 100 Books Together.
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