Book Review: Fat Camp by James Sabata

Posted October 31, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 3 Comments

Book Review: Fat Camp by James Sabata

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Fat Camp by James Sabata
Genres: Horror, Literature, YA
Published by Author on July 13, 2018
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: Author

Buy on Amazon

A standalone novel in the horror literature genre that will make you laugh.

This ARC was sent to me by James Sabata for an honest review.

My Take

That’s right, horror that easily pulls the laughter from you as Sabata embraces his inner teen and lets us have it from the enlarged right bicep to the smell of the locker room…and oh yeah, I could definitely smell that reek. All set in the horror slasher movie genre. I don’t watch horror movies…too scary!! But Sabata’s tale brought them to life in Fat Camp without the idiot tropes we all despise.

The literature part? Yes. Sabata crafts a brilliant story about the woes of being super-fat as a teenage boy. Nope, he’s not taking potshots and cracking jokes about being fat. Sabata is serious in his exploration of Phillip’s problems. It’s also an opportunity for the fat boy to show us what’s it like to be trapped in that fat body and have to use it. The problems of simply living. And he does it so well, lol.

It’s all through Phillip’s eyes in first person protagonist point-of-view, as he moans about Seth signing up right along with him… Hey, shouldn’t a best friend just moan and groan about the idea?, lol. It’s that time spent at fat camp, and the horrors that come along with it that change Phillip’s perspective on himself. Those thoughts Phillip has about always being picked last, and then the absolute humiliation of being picked last amongst a group of other kids who are always picked last really resonated. The more I think on Fat Camp, the more impressed I am with what Sabata has created. Funny. Scary. Realistic in exploring those themes of bullies, horror films, self-analysis, bravery… Damned good.

That Seth is something else, an incredibly empathic friend to Phillip, even if Phillip isn’t impressed. Of course Phillip has his own insights into his sister, especially since his sessions with the camp doc. Emily is surprising as well, seeing inside the book instead of focusing on the cover. Nikki’s not too bad either.

The change in their relationship leads to some interesting discussions, including the one about cliques and why people form up with each other.

Poor Phillip, his best friend is dating his sister. Gross. Truly gross is the Perkins family’s reaction to the afterwards.

Oh, lord, that shower scene after Phillip slides through the mud. Crack. Me. Up.

No, no, just…no. I don’t care if it’s Fit Camp or Fat Camp or whatever, I will never be able to see food as simply fuel. No matter what Dr Munson says:

“…when you stop eating food for the flavor and you eat it as the fuel you need to get through the day, it becomes incredibly easy to eat the same thing every day.”

No. Okay, yeah. I do eat the same thing every day, pretty much. Lord knows I’ll cook up a week’s worth of food, so I don’t have to cook from scratch every night! But what’s the point in eating if it’s not for the flavor!? If I’m eating, I want to enjoy the flavors. Otherwise, why not just take a pill or down a diet drink?

On the surface, Fat Camp is about Phillip’s need to lose weight, and it’s a journey that takes him through hell in so many ways. But it’s a hell that helps him to grow within himself and begin to understand the whys of it.

Always remember, you can’t save anyone until you save yourself.

The Story

The emotional baggage Phillip carries weighs more than that physical 400 pounds, and he’s about to give up. Sure, he’s learned a lot from Dr Munson and will learn a lot more when Emily opens up and sees him as someone more…until a homicidal maniac hell-bent on revenge attacks.

Phillip must either find the courage to save the people around him or fall victim to his own self-doubt … and possibly a machete.

The Characters

Phillip McCracken is 400 pounds overweight, and he has learned that his father’s death and his mother is his trigger to overeat. Nicole “Nikki” McCracken is his cheerleader sister. JT is their oldest cousin. Emily Clausen, a seventeen-year-old cheerleader, is Nicole’s best friend, and the love of Phillip’s life. Although he knows she’d never even think of looking at him. Michael is Emily’s brother.

Camp Wašíšu is…
…Fit Camp, first opened in 1985 with the intention of helping kids lose weight, gain self-confidence, and turn their lives around. Frank Doyle is the legend of the camp for the strides he made in losing weight, breaking records, and winning every competition.

Seth Jenkins is his best friend and doing much better at losing weight than Phillip. Georgie Perkins is Phillip’s roommate and comes from money. (An ancestor, Kane H. Perkins donated the money to build the place, and the family rents it out as an upscale B&B the rest of the year.) Others include Obi who is too excited about being a normal teen without all those expectations from his parents, Timothy Mallick prefers his online playing and his parents’ too-few expectations, Jason Kramer and Fred Hoffman are high school defensive linemen, Jonathan Young, Chuck Denlon, Randy Waterhouse will get you what you want…for cash, Bobby Whannell is the sole anorexic, Brandon Katz, Kyle Messineo, Vincent Alesio is Kyle’s basketball partner, Eduardo, Logan, and Jared are fellow campers.

Gordon “Sarge” Stanheight had been a Marine Drill Instructor who had also served in the First Gulf War and Operating Enduring Freedom. Now he’s the head counselor. Greg Munson is the doc’s husband who is also a camp counselor along with Eric Schultz; Jeff Halden, who’s the resident vegetarian hippie; and, Tony and Todd are the overnight counselors. Diane is the head cook. Dr Jessica Munson is the camp therapist.

A few years back, John Walker really failed Fat Camp. Orlando washed out this year. Melissa is another cheerleader along with Nicole and Emily.

Karen Young is Jonathan’s mother. Amber is the local weather girl on the radio. Chris is the boyfriend who dumped Emily. The Hochstein sisters appear to be talkers. Dr Rezac is another therapist. Rachel will be a friend of Nikki’s from college.

In those camp stories…
Jessica got her head cut off in the prologue. The dog turned into Doug who turns into a werewolf and meets his old owner, Robert Stuart. Sir Robert of the Lake became Sir Robert the Bob.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a scary cartoon of leafless writhing trees with log cabins set among them, and muddied, terrified, chins and tummies wobbling, screaming in fear as Seth and Phillip run toward us with the machete wielding, hooded killer behind them. The sky above is dark gray with wobbling stripes of lighter gray angling across with a full moon behind it all. The title is at the top in a deep pink, the fear oozing down from the foot of the letters. The author’s name is in white at the bottom in a distressed font. Perfect.

That sign may have once read “Fit Camp”, but a little paint and the title is no euphemism. It’s Fat Camp, where every camper needs to lose weight.

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