by B. R. Myers
I’m sorry I didn’t review this book sooner but I should have recalled how much I’d been impressed with B. R. Myers’ debut novel, Butterflies Don’t Lie (Nimbus, 2014). But, here I am again, reviewing in winter a book that takes place during summer. Let’s look at it this way, though: it’s that time of year when high school students are thinking about summer jobs and parents are anticipating signing up their children for summer camps. So, it’s still all good: both Girl on the Run and reviewing Girl on the Run now.
Seventeen-year-old Jesse Collins used to be a runner and a very good one. But that all changed four months ago when her father died suddenly.
I used to care about provincial records, and even the Olympics, but not anymore. Those were things I no longer had, and no longer deserved. I put my hand on my stomach, on the heaviness that was always there. A reminder of what I’d done and what I’d lost. (pg. 49)Now it’s all she can do to push forward through her days, convince her mother that she’s not depressed and give in to her BFF’s attempts to get her dating and meeting the right guy. Jesse needs a fresh start and two months at Kamp Krystal Lake as a counsellor is what she plans to do. What she doesn’t plan on is there being a mix-up with the camp thinking she was a male and entrusting her with Cabin 4A, a small makeshift cabin, and four twelve-year-old boys: the camp owner’s terror of a son, Spencer; twins Liam and Duff; and the kindest of all, Scotty.
While Jesse tries to make the best of things, which isn’t always easy, she does meet new people who don’t know about her past and she’s so good with that. There’s Devin, another counsellor (or so she thinks) that is making the moves on her; Lewis, recent grad and part of the kitchen staff; Alicia, a friendly lifeguard; Lacey, the perfect counsellor to a cabin of pink cupettes, as Jesse calls them; and Kirk, the head counsellor who always seems to catch her at her worst but whose milk chocolate eyes consistently attract her notice.
But the pranks pulled by the boys, including a fake drowning that costs Jesse a special necklace from her parents, commemorating her first provincial running record, brings her to the attention of the camp director, Susan, who wonders, along with Kirk and Lacey, whether they should be looking for another counsellor for the boys. And, though the camp is eager to have Jesse run for them in the annual lake triathlon against other camps, Jesse is adamant that she will not.
Still, guilt-ridden about her dad’s death, Jesse perseveres, through humiliation and misunderstandings and misplaced crushings and some kissing, to find that she has a lot more gumption than she first thought and is able to make Kamp Krystal Lake a positive experience for more than just herself.
B. R. Myers embeds a lot of constructive messages in this sweet volume of teen chicklit. Not only do readers get to share in a summer fling with Jesse and go through the full camp experience of outdoor activities, dances, dining hall shenanigans and food, they will learn a lot about Jesse’s namesake, runner Jesse Owens, about working through guilt and grief, and about resiliency. Lessons well learned and even enjoyed by Jesse herself, the Girl on the Run.