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This Camp is Doomed: A Dennith Grange Misadventure

By Anna Zobel

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

Melbourne based Anna Zobel is making a name for herself for writing quirky entertaining mysteries within an  original fantasy framework. Her previous work include the Little Gem series also reviewed in StoryLinks. This Camp is Doomed is an entertaining mystery featuring quite an eclectic mix of characters set in Camp Buttress, a run down facility run for generations by the Klock family.
Two teachers, the gentle perceptive Michael Berg and the ebullient Maggie Malatesta are in charge of ten students who each bring their own problems with them. Zobel says she is inspired by the children she has encountered as a teacher, and strives to represent them in her work. The ten children here are all recognizable and realistic, each different, memorable, and touching  in their own way.
The plot centres on the question of whether or not there are ghosts and whether or not they will survive the unsafe activities organised in a fairly haphazard fashion by Aleesia Klock, the teenage daughter of the owners. What makes this novel different and interesting is that in this particular world each person has a special power. Michael has total recall of everything he reads. Some of the children have come into their powers which include being able to speak to birds, having premonitions, being able to heal, create a storm  and more. Part of the suspense is finding out what special power the others will reveal. The story is told from multiple points of view which adds a depth as we learn more about the narrator and also tension as the viewpoint shifts at crucial moments.
 I really enjoyed the quirky chapter headings, e.g.  This is really a serious safety issue; My bones feel jittery; An unpleasant smell; Naughty singing and also the author’s illustrations sprinkled generously throughout the book.
This fantasy is an enjoyable mystery elevated by the depth of the characterisation and the inventiveness of the created world. As it is labelled a Dennith Grange Misadventure I assume it is the first in a series, and I look forward to the next instalment.
Recommended as a Reader’s Cup title.
Puffin 2023


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