Called Upon

Morgan James. Mar. 2021. 284p. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781631952029.
Gr 7 Up–Fifteen-year-old Kaitlin has mixed feelings about being sent to Camp Overlook for the summer—it allows her to escape being a social outcast in her hometown, but going to camp means having to be social. But Kaitlin makes friends on the very first day of camp and secures the attention of Max, a fellow camper whose sweet nature causes her to let her guard down. Led by the hyper-jubilant Dr. Forsythe, it becomes clear that Camp Overlook is not all that it seems. Soon after arrival, campers begin disappearing after experiencing bad dreams and flu-like symptoms. Kaitlin and Max start investigating, teaming up with veteran camper Claire, and discover that the camp uses a sophisticated surveillance system to monitor conversations and activities among the campers. But Kailtin’s curiosity soon takes her into dangerous territory—Dr. Forsythe reveals that she, and many of the other campers, are there to take part in a genetic experiment, explaining that she has the ability to make a real impact in the world if she joins his cause. Kaitlin has to decide if her newfound sense of belonging is worth the moral and ethical codes she would be forced to abandon. Lee relies on character tropes to introduce a large cast of campers, often rendering the characters who disappear disposable. Kaitlin and the immediate cast of characters are coded white. Mexican cultural appropriation is depicted in one scene, but Kaitlin only briefly remarks upon it as offensive. Lee’s reliance on telling rather than showing neglects to add depth to this psychological thriller.
VERDICT An interesting premise falls short of its own potential. Suitable for adolescent readers who are new to the psychological thriller genre.

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