Published by HarperTeen on June 26, 2018
There are two monsters in this story. One of them is me.
Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.
Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.
After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.
But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.
I never went to summer camp as a child – just never had a desire. If given the opportunity now, I probably still wouldn’t to be honest: it’s too hot, there are bugs and the ground is hard and unforgiving. But sometimes I read a summer camp book (excluding ones about murder – sorry, The Last Time I Lied) that makes me want to throw caution to the wind and be a teenager at sleepaway camp. Wild Blue Wonder is one of those books.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
I’ll be honest – I wasn’t sure I’d care for this book at all when I received it in my July Once Upon a Book Club box. It seemed a little hokey, and I was concerned it wouldn’t be able to pick a genre – from the description alone it could have gone off in a few different directions: fantasy, mystery, romance … it actually managed to weave all three together seamlessly, which is no small feat.
Quinn had it all figured out. She was incredibly close with her older brother Reed and younger sister Fern, her parents loved them dearly and her grandmother was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. And then there was Dylan – her brother’s best friend, her crush, her dream. But when we begin this story, it’s all wrong – we’ve never seen how Quinn used to operate with Reed and Fern, but we know this is not how it’s supposed to be – the siblings go out of their way to not interact, there’s a clear dislike of Quinn running as an undercurrent between them all. Dylan is gone – we presume he’s dead – and Quinn holds herself accountable. We see how Quinn struggles – once a star swimmer who could attend just about any college on a swim scholarship who now won’t touch the water – and we can’t help but wonder, what happened to Dylan? What happened to Quinn?
This story unravels on this quasi-magical plot of land known as The Hundreds – so named because it’s 100 acres in size, no relation to Pooh Bear. Each summer, Quinn’s family hosts several week-long summer camps, and this is where the writing shines so boldly: we’re right there with them. I can feel the summer heat on my skin and can see the hundreds of wishes scribbled on scraps of paper, dangling from the ceiling. When it’s winter, I can feel the oppressive snow and cold, eyelashes frozen – and I’m from Georgia, I’ve never seen snow this deep. But damn if I don’t feel it.
There is a love interest, your typical “new kid moves to town and doesn’t care about the local gossip about the main character” romance subplot, but it’s not the main focus of the story and it is certainly not heavyhanded. It’s a sweet, slow burning relationship that is very realistic and lovely. We get to know the boy in question – Alexander – quite well independent of his status as the love interest, and even Quinn’s best friend Hana gets fleshed out. These characters are easy to get to know and love – even siblings Reed and Fern who we don’t know much about at present are fleshed out in memories and flashbacks Quinn has to their childhood.
The Bottom Line
There’s lots to unpack here – redemption, family, friendship, guilt. The concept of your “found family,” the people you choose to keep close who aren’t related to you by blood. But it’s all handled delicately, captured within a narrative that feels like it’s held together with spun sugar – magic and wonder. This is the most captivating setting I’ve read about all year, and I can’t praise Sorosiak enough for her depiction of how PTSD manifests – how grief shows itself differently in everyone, but how when you witness a harrowing event it can feel even heavier and more dire.
I haven’t seen anyone mention this book all summer long, and I am not 100% sure why – this is Sorosiak’s sophomore book, but maybe this is just a sleeper hit? It seems deserving of a quiet, but striking and bold, narrative – just like The Hundreds, tucked away in the Maine woods by a lake … gentle and slow like a summer morning.
“When I look back on that summer, this is how I want to remember her. This is how I want to remember us. Belting out a song in the middle of a storm. Gobbling up firecracker Popsicles beneath an orange sky. I want to remember picnics in the wildflower meadow and lounging in the sun-washed grass, fresh blueberries and sweating bottles of cool lemonade, snorting with laughter and then laughing some more.”