The Lake

Delacorte. Mar. 2021. 384p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780593124970.
Gr 7 Up–Best friends Esme and Kayla are excited to return to their childhood summer camp, Camp Pine Lake, as counselors-in-training for the next six weeks. Pale, petite Esme and tanned, curvy Kayla hit it off with their fellow CITs: pale and bullied Rebekah; Black and gay Tia; blond-haired, blue-eyed, football player Jake; and tall, dark, and handsome Olly. Everyone is looking forward to swimming, s’mores, and campfires by the lake, but only a few days into their stay Esme and Kayla find a creepy note. Then an ominous message is written on a cabin. Could someone at camp know Esme and Kayla are keeping a secret? The setting will instantly appeal to readers who are nostalgic for outdoor activities by day and ghost stories by a lake at night. But the pace is choppy; some chapters stall on repetitive conversations while others fly by swiftly, alive with action. The characters are flat: While Esme is anxiety personified, Kayla is frightened to the point of unpleasantness. Both girls are dithering and overdramatic, while Jake and Olly are stereotypical athletes, Rebekah is a perpetual victim, and Tia—a token minority character—is used solely to further the plot. The ending abruptly turns away from the eerie threats peppered throughout the narrative to pages of sudden violence. The ultimate cliffhanger, however, is one readers won’t see coming.
VERDICT For libraries where Preston’s previous works are popular.

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