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Slept Away book cover

Slept Away, by Julie Kraut; Delacorte Books
for Young Readers: New York, 2009; $8.99.

When I first picked up Slept Away at the bookstore, I expected it to be a fun, entertaining story, and it’s that plus more. In addition to being amusing and lighthearted, this book holds a meaningful message about society, and particularly popularity.

All Laney Parker knows is New York City. It’s her home, where she’s lived all of her fifteen years. Summer’s approaching, and she’s looking forward to lounging around in luxury by a beautiful pool with her best friend, Kennedy. She’ll sleep in late every morning, hit all of the huge parties thrown by her peers, and maintain her reputation, while relaxing under the sun for a couple of months. It’ll be a great relief from the stress of the school year.

But her mother has different ideas. Wham—Laney’s awesome and lazy summer plans go down the drain as she’s faced with six weeks of misery and torture at a summer camp called Timber Trails in Pennsylvania.

No matter how much she kicks and screams and protests, Laney is thrown way out of her familiar, busy city environment into a rural campsite with no air-conditioning, a cabin she has to share with a few cruel strangers, and chocolate only twice a week! How will she survive? Although this pampered princess may be overreacting, I can understand her anger. With so much free time over the long summer break, I’d definitely prefer to make my own plans as well.

I can relate to how Laney doesn’t want to go out of her comfort zone. This winter, my parents have been urging me to try something new and go skiing with them. I, having zero tolerance for the bitter cold, have always said no. Perhaps if I just tried it, I’d find that it’s a lot of fun.

Used to being in the royal party when it comes to the social ladder, Laney quickly realizes that things are not quite the same here at Timber Trails. That may be a bit of an understatement, actually. How is she suddenly considered the outsider, the weirdo, the geek? And these girls who she’d probably make fun of if she were back at home were suddenly… the popularity queens? Laney’s world is being shaken up like a salad after all the ingredients are put in the bowl.

Things become even more peculiar when she runs into a guy from home, here at camp. Ever since a horrible accident that led him to pencil in his eyebrows in the third grade, this boy has been the biggest joke in the city… at least among their group of peers. He obviously leads a double life, as he’s a major heartthrob at Timber Trails, bewildering Laney.

Soon, she finds herself falling for this guy. Uh-oh… This relationship would be totally off-limits back in New York! Will she ignore him because of his status, or will she listen to her heart and risk her social standing at home? Laney’s been faced with one of the toughest decisions in her life, and one of the most important revelations about popularity—what’s the point of it all, anyway? If you look deeper at someone, maybe there’s more to that person than a silly label implies.

At the end of this dreaded summer, Laney Parker is left with a few amazing new friends, an appreciation for both the stylish clothes and the chocolate she has at home, and a freshly opened mind to the realities of popularity.

Slept Away Leah Wolfe
Leah Wolfe, 12
Florham Park, New Jersey