My Dog Picked What I Review This Week
Hello all. Welcome to the end of 2020, 2021 is upon us and it shall magically fix all the problems 2020 created…I hope. Anyway, I bring you all a fun treat this week. Today I bring you a review of a book hand picked by my dog…or I guess I should say nose picked.
First and foremost, meet my baby Truffles!
She’s almost three-years-old and is absolutely insane. She’s scared of the outside world, hates car rides yet wants to chase cars that drive by our house, and she also has a serious obsession with balloons and ice cubes. She’s lucky she’s so cute because she is indeed a strange one.
Last week, I had my ice cube loving dog choose a book for me to reread and review this week. I know there used to be a trend where beauty gurus had their pets pick their make up on YouTube; this is in no way an original idea that I am taking credit for. I simply didn’t know what to do for this week.
Anyway, I gave my pupper three options: The Siren by Kiera Cass, Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, and Campfire by Shawn Sarles. There were no treats to goad her into picking a certain book. I didn’t call her and point to a certain book. I just read what she went to investigate first. And what she picked for me was Campfire by Shawn Sarles.
Campfire was published in 2018. I think I picked the book up the same year it was published and I haven’t read it since. Returning to it two years later I now fully remember why. In short, it’s just bland.
Sarles doesn’t do much with his debut book. Nothing in it is trailblazing or new. The characters don’t feel alive and the conflict is minuscule for the vast majority of the book. The best part of this book is the campfire stories the characters tell to freak each other out in the beginning of the story.
Let me tell you a little bit about this book. As always a spoiler alert is in order.
Campfire follows 16-year-old Maddie, no last name that I could find in the book but that’s alright, and the horrifying camping trip she is on. Maddie and her best friend Chelsea are on this trip with Maddie’s dad Mitch and brother Charlie, his girlfriend and her family, and Maddie’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. According to backstory, these three families have been inseparable ever since the adults all met and coupled up back in their college days.
This trip is the last big event before Charlie and his girlfriend Dylan head off to college in the fall. Everything begins mundane enough, the group is only going camping for a week; what could possibly go wrong? Truthfully? Nothing much for the first two days or so. Everything is pretty normal outside of the adults fighting and keeping secrets from the teens.
At night, the group settles in for spooky stories around the campfire. These stories become the inspiration for a killer stalking through the woods. But who or what is the killer?
The hook of this book is supposed to be that stories told around a campfire while under a full moon come true. This idea is nothing original, there is plenty of other media out there that plays with this idea. While it’s not a bad thing that this book follows the legends/stories coming true as it can be nice to read books that can be reminiscent of other things or stories, the fact that Campfire doesn’t add anything to this trope is its downfall.
Never once does it feel like there could be a supernatural element to this story. The hook is treated as such a throw away line; legends coming to life is only mentioned once. No one brings this up again, everything that happens is treated like some crazed killer is stalking the woods. It’s never questioned if this crazed killer was brought forth by telling spooky stories around a campfire. While I appreciate that the characters are smart enough to not believe in such a superstition, why did Sarles even bother including that line then!?
So many plot points are just throw away lines. Accusations are treated as throw away lines. So many plot points and details aren’t there thanks to this. Clues to who could possibly be behind the killings truly don’t exist in this book.
This book focuses on the wrong things. More time should have been spent figuring out who was behind the killings and more time should have been spent building tension. Sarles spends more time not passing the Bechdel test instead.
If that last point wasn’t bad enough, this book goes zero to one hundred real quick. The lack of tension doesn’t help. It feels like nothing happens for the vast majority of the book. You get a few quick spooks with the campfire tales, but when the climax happens you get nothing. The villain reveal isn’t this big deal like it should be. Basically the ending is a thing that happens and then the book is over.
There isn’t even much to say about the characters. Character development is done by drawing a line in the sand. The main character, Maddie, basically says she needs to stop running away from her problems and face them head on. So what does she end up doing? She fights the killer. That’s all the character development she gets. There’s no character arc. There's nothing whatsoever.
The other characters don’t even get that line in the sand. The other characters are just there to possibly become victims of the killer. And speaking of this killer, his, her or their plan makes no sense. There also isn’t anything that suggests that this person could be the killer because clues don’t exist in this book!
When I said that this book is simply bland, I meant it. As I’m writing this, I can tell that I’m forgetting what happens in this book yet again. Maybe I’ll come back to Campfire in another two years and this cycle will continue.
I wanted this review to be longer. I wanted to go into depth with this book, but it’s just so forgettable. I wish this book was better, I wish the full story was just as intriguing as the legends Sarles wrote, it just isn’t.