Having adored Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, I was keen on checking out her spin with this gripping and hilarious middle-grade summer camp memoir.
All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.
I’m gonna jump right into discussing the book by highlighting the dreaded sleepover scene that still gives me chills… and it’s been over a decade for me. All the more painful to relive it through Vera’s young eyes. She’s trying her hardest to assimilate as smoothly as possible by pulling together a sleepover (by replicating her friend’s version), but then her mother gives her Russian twist on it.
As a child of Russian Jews (like I mention in my review for Natasha and Other Stories), I know all too well that you’re donzo if your third-grade classmates see those Russian letters on the cake…
It’s these intimate moments of struggling to belong and navigating your own culture that stood out to most when I read Anya’s Ghost back in 2016. So I was glad to see it delve deeper with Be Prepared. I mean, the painful courage it took to include the sleepover must’ve been tremendous.
Moving along to Vera finding out about a Russian summer camp “build around fostering Russian community” and deciding to join in the hopes of finding people that’ll get her. But she’s not quite prepared for the conditions set in the middle of nowhere.You pretty much knew what to expect with this introducing letter:“Dear mom, could you pick me up as soon as you get this? PLEASE! I’m desperate”
What follows is a journey of self-acceptance and resilience, finding friendship within the right people, and more and more summer hardships to overcome. I read it in a heartbeat.
All in all, I more than keen on reading more of Vera Brosgol’s graphic memoirs, especially with that ending we got from Be Prepared!
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Expected publication: April 24th, 2018