I am always on the lookout for a nice, fun slasher book. For someone who is a fan of slasher movies, there is something especially satisfying about reading those stories translated to the page—the blood, the screams, the stalking—bring it on. If you are nodding your head, then you get me, and you’re going to dig this book.
Set at a summer camp for boys with eating disorders, Fat Camp follows overweight teen Phillip and his few friends as they navigate the festering pool that is life as outcasts, and as if that isn’t bad enough already, take on a crazed killer with a machete.
If you’ve ever looked at yourself in the mirror and felt you didn’t fit in for any reason—and who the hell didn’t have that experience as a teenager?—something in this book will speak to you. Sabata does a great job of conveying life as an overweight teen, from the obvious, like feeling self-conscious about the way clothing fits or having to shower with other boys around, to more detailed observations, like how carrying a suitcase up several staircases can be a huge obstacle.
The main character is also very believable: he wants to fit in and get the pretty girl, but it’s really hard to work out and run and eat almost nothing, and he misses the easy life of vegging out with a bag of Doritos. I can relate. His relationship with his friends is also great; their dialogue and interactions together felt very natural.
I also liked the exploration of social hierarchy, and I thought that this could have been explored and pushed even further in the book. Even at Fit Camp there is a hierarchy of bullies, and Phillip and his friends are on the bottom rung.
While the teenage boys seem to be more fully explored and developed, what I found lacking was the characterization of the women in the book. Phillip’s sister and her friend that come to visit were confusing to me. They were not overly important to the plot and it felt like they were mainly just there to be objects to be stared at and lusted over. The therapist was also a mystery. She was such a helpful presence, but all Phillip seemed to be able to focus on was how attractive she was and it really cut her down as a person. I would have liked to see more well-rounded characters, and women that mattered not just as functions to move the plot forward but as people.
The book is written mainly in first person from Phillip’s perspective. There are a few sections that go to slasher POV, which I really liked—that made it feel like watching a movie. But sometimes in order to forward the plot, the story would need to follow a character other than Phillip, so the narration would switch to third person. Since the setup from the beginning makes it clear that Phillip is telling this from a point in the future, it really did not make sense to me to interrupt his narration with these third-person scenes that he wasn't a part of. The switch in narration was jarring and really did not work. If a book is going to be written in first person, it should be written entirely from that character’s perspective.
Overall, I found Fat Camp to be a fun slasher, like a pretty good B-horror movie from the 80s—one you find yourself laughing at, cringing at, and reveling in the gooshy practical effects. If those types of movies are your jam, you’re going to want to read this one.
My thanks to the author for my copy of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.