Seventeen-year-old Ally is thrilled to spend her summer lifeguarding at the prestigious Camp Fireside—until her epilepsy labels her a liability and she's assigned a counselor position instead. When one of her campers disappears and she becomes a suspect, Ally digs for answers, revealing dark secrets lurking beneath the camp’s picture-perfect facade.
Childhood summers are supposed to be like magic. Late nights, lightning bugs in jars, laughing until it’s hard to breathe. Scary stories and s’mores and campfire smoke.
But it doesn’t last forever. That spark, that intoxicating magic, eventually flickers out.
Sometimes, it happens in the darkest ways possible.
That glow of excitement was alive and well when I stumbled upon Camp Fireside the summer before ninth grade, thanks to a stack of brochures at my local library urging parents to consider a premier summer camp experience for their kids. I snuck one home to plead my case.
“These could be my friends,” I told my mom, pointing at the grinning, glossy-faced campers. They posed in Lincoln Log-looking cabins, beside sky-high pines, floating on a deep blue lake.
She looked at me with big eyes. At the time, I interpreted her gaze as exasperated, but I can parse pity a little better now. You’re not going to a camp that costs two months of my salary, her pupils told me between blinks.
Instead, I spent that summer imagining the fun I’d have if I lived in a cabin instead of a tiny apartment. If I had bunk beds full of other girls to whisper to in the dark instead of an empty room. If I spent my days bonding over silly camp activities, not home alone in front of the TV.
It’s taken me four years, but I’m finally going to Camp Fireside, only to work, not play.