fighting bullying one novel at a time
Discussion Guide: CAMP
1. The most realistic characters in novels engender our sympathy at times and our lack of sympathy at other times. When and why do you have sympathy for Amy? And when, if ever, don’t you have sympathy for her? Using this framework, discuss Amy’s mother, her father, and Rory as characters for whom you feel sympathy at some times and a lack of sympathy at other times.
2. There are many interesting relationships in CAMP. Discuss the relationship between Amy and her mother; the relationship between Amy and her brother, Charlie; Amy and her cousin, Robin; Amy’s father and his brother, Uncle Ed; Amy’s mother and Uncle Ed.
3. Another interesting relationship is the one between Amy’s mother and father. Why do you think Amy’s father doesn’t stand up to her mother? Is Amy’s father a good father? Why or why not?
4. Why does Amy say she hates her mother? Why does her mother’s accent bother Amy so much? Do you think children of immigrants often feel embarrassed by their parents? If so, why?
5. Even though Amy says she hates her mother, Amy still seeks her mother’s approval. She wants her mother to think that she’s popular, smart, and pretty. Why?
6. Early in the novel, Amy wonders why her mother needs everything to be done in a particular way. “But why this requirement of perfection,” Amy asks herself, “those stupid rules that governed our lives?” Why do you think Amy’s mother imposes this requirement of perfection? What function do her rules serve for her? And why is Amy’s mother obsessed with appearances?
7. The characters in CAMP make many choices. What motivates the choices that Amy, her mother, her father, Rory, Erin, Uncle Ed, and Patsy make? While reading, how did you feel about their choices? After reading, do you have new insights?
8. Why does Amy lie in her letters? Why doesn’t she tell anyone what’s really happening at Camp Takawanda? What do you think could have or would have happened had Amy told the truth?
9. At the beginning of the camp season, when Rory threatens Amy with a “special introduction” to the kitchen boys, Amy can’t find her voice. Why can’t she talk back to Rory? What do you think you might have done if you were Amy? What might you have done if you were one of the other campers?
10. Critics call CAMP a multi-layered story with many themes. Some say it’s a novel about trying to fit in; others say it’s about secrets; still others write that it’s mainly about bullying. What do you think are the main themes of CAMP?
11. CAMP has been described as “a story about the collateral damage of secrets.” Which characters hold secrets? What purposes do secrets serve for these characters? What harm is caused by the secrets in this novel?
12. In interviews, the author defines bullying as “aggressive behavior that’s hurtful, intentional, threatening, and persistent.” With this definition in mind, who are the bullies in CAMP? How do they elicit fear and compliance? How do they maintain their power?
13. Why does Rory choose a new target after visiting day? What does that tell us about bullies? Why does cousin Robin side with Rory?
14. Sometimes the adults who are supposed to keep children safe fail in their responsibilities. Could Nancy, the head counselor, have stopped the bullying? Should Clarence, in charge of the kitchen, have intervened? Is Uncle Ed culpable? Why doesn’t he take action?
15. Do you think Erin is a good friend to Amy? Why or why not? What are the characteristics of a good friend?
16. There are several recurring sayings or expressions in this story –– “everything in its place, and a place for every thing,” for example. What are some other repeated sayings? How do they enhance CAMP?
17. Discuss the symbolism of the mother’s metal box, of her perfectly fluffed pillows, and of Amy’s Russian nesting dolls.
18. CAMP is often called “a coming-of-age novel.” By the time Amy leaves Camp Takawanda, she is quite different from how she is when she arrives. What lessons does Amy learn at camp? What does Amy want at the beginning of the summer? What does she want at the end? Does she get it? If so, what price does she pay?
19. At the end of CAMP, we learn the mother’s history. Does her background justify the way in which she treats her children? Do you feel differently about Amy’s mother after you know her story? Toward the beginning of CAMP, Amy wonders: “Why couldn’t my mother just love us?” What is the answer to that question? And how does Amy come to forgive her mother?
20. There are two epigraphs at the beginning of the novel. One is attributed to William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The other epigraph is from Anne Michaels: “My parents’ past is mine molecularly.” Discuss these quotes as they relate to CAMP.