Book Review of The Unplugged Summer by George Horner
Hello and welcome to “There’s No Place Like Summer Camp”. I’m your host, Andrew Waterhouse. And in today’s episode, we’re doing a review. And the review is of the “Unplugged Summer”. So, come into our tent and I’ll spill the beans.
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of There’s No Place Like Summer Camp. Like I said at the start of this episode, this is a review of the Unplugged Summer. Which is a book by George Horner. So, I hope you enjoy this episode.
Now, I have to start with how did I come across this book? Being a part of There’s No Place Like Summer Camp, and releasing my book very soon, I always keep an eye out for new summer camp related books on Amazon. This happened to turn up and it piqued my interest because it’s an Englishman’s perspective of life at an American summer camp. Now, if that’s the subtitle, that’s going to hook me in. It is pretty much the whole point of my book. So, it piqued my interest. And I had to order myself a physical copy, whenever I do get the chance to order a book, especially those around summer camp.
I don’t want to get an eBook, I want to get the physical copy and see what it’s like, as the author intended, and all of the work that they’ve put into it. So, what I have here is a copy of his book. And if you’ve followed me on Instagram, you would have seen a couple of months ago that I received this and I let it die. I didn’t do any follow-up episodes, I didn’t comment any further on this book. And the reason for that, and I do apologise if George is following this… I didn’t post anything about this, because it’s a book that I don’t like. But we’ll get into that.
So, before we begin, I just want to remind you guys that there is a competition at the minute. If you go to theresnoplacelikesummercamp.com/competition, you can win yourselves a copy of my book. Now there are two books available as eBooks. And there’s one paperback available as well. Whoever wins, I might get in touch with you to see if you want it signed, which I can do, which will be pretty cool. So, if you want to enter, all you have to do is go to theresnoplacelikesummercamp.com, all you have to do is click on the links. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you get yourself some entries, but you have to go to that page to enter. I think you get an entry for following me on Twitter and an entry for following us on Instagram. And you also have a chance to sign up for a newsletter as well. All you have to do is type in your email address, and you have an extra entry. So, you’ve got until the 1st of April, if you want to get in with a chance of winning a book. It’s only open to the UK only because I have to post it myself. And it’s going to cost a bit of an arm and a leg to send it anywhere else. But if you are interested in picking up There’s No Place Like Summer Camp, it does release on the fourth of April. So, it’s not that far away now. And I hope that the people that are listening to this, in the very far future. Know that the books sort of out now. If you’re listening to this beyond the fourth of April 2020. So, it’s out it’s available on Amazon. But if you’re listening to this at the time of upload, it’s not so let’s crack on with the rest of this episode.
Okay, so I’ve talked about how I found this book in the first place. I like to keep an eye on the latest published months of summer camp books. And it piqued my interest and Unplugged Summer and Englishman’s perspective on life at an American summer camp. Now, I want to start with the back of this book, because it’s going to give you a lot of perspective on what to expect from this.
Back of the book
So, it was in September 2014 when George Horner began his quest of spending the following summer in America. He’s hoping to work at an American summer camp, a place of unfamiliarity with limited access to social media, and with numerous kids to supervise. This memoir reveals the challenging journey for the Englishman in his pursuit of being welcomed on board by a summer camp director.
We were working at an America Can summer camp become his destiny? Will he be embarking on the most memorable summer? George is from Hampshire, England. His enthusiasm for sport led him to achieve a BA Honors Degree in sports development at the University of Chichester in 2013. He then focused his career progression in the health and social care sector. And in February 2019, he completed a two-year Postgraduate Diploma in adult nursing, based at the University of Southampton.
This has enabled him to become a registered nurse at the NHS. With all his achievements in his life so far, including the writing of this book, perseverance was the key.
So that’s the whole premise of this book. And you have to understand that the angle of this book that it tries to take you down is how technology is not evident, or very much in the background of volunteering at summer camp. And it’s a different angle from the other ones that I’ve read. Now, George here goes to volunteer at Camp Ace Invaders. And it’s through a programme called Wild Packs, which I hadn’t heard of before. But Wild Packs are like what Camp America is Camp Leaders and all that good stuff. That’s something I’ve only really noticed since doing this podcast, by the way, and getting balls deep into the summer camp stratosphere sort of thing is. How many different programmes there are? But I’d never heard of Wild Packs until I read this book. But it’s similar to Camp America, I think he goes for this programme because they pay slightly better than Camp America. But anyway, I’m beside the point.
Full of problems
So, at the start of this podcast, I said that I wish there was more from this book. So, I have to start with the shite points of this book. So, the first thing that gave it away to, me was there were 73 pages before he’s even at summer camp. It’s so much rambling. Like I say, if George is listening to this, it’s not personal. It’s not envying, jealousy. It’s just a guy behind a microphone trying to do a bit of a review, I like to read a lot. And I think I’m considerably older than you as well. So, don’t take it personally. But this is just my opinion. I think it’s good to have these dialogues. I can recommend things to my audience because I think some people may click with this idea. They might think, oh, you know what, that’s quite a good angle. Actually. This is just my personal opinion,.. So, take it with a grain of salt.
The 73 Pages before actually at camp
But yeah, The Unplugged Summer is all about how technology is disconnected from summer camp. And why straightaway found was this so much rambling in this book, 73 pages before you’re actually at summer camp, you hear so many times, where camps come and go during the interview stage that is so laborious and boring, you go through quite a few chapters, where you just look back and go, Why the fuck was that in? Like, why are we talking about this interview that he had with the summer camp and then fell through? It kind of gives you a bit more of the background of what it’s like to go and apply for summer camp. But I don’t think it needs to be in there when you’re talking to say four or five or six different summer camps. And then you finally land that position.
There’s a whole chapter in there as well about how monotonous the stages are for camp. And at one point, he kicks off with the director, because there are so many stages that he’s just getting frustrated. I just found it quite funny in a way because that shouldn’t be in the book. I can understand the frustration of someone that’s young going into camp, and maybe it’s their first job and getting frustrated with the number of stages there are because there certainly are loads of stages to go into summer camp. But I didn’t understand why he kicks off – maybe he has some sort of bad day. And that’s the problem with this book throughout is that there’s no context and there’s no development of the page. There’s a lot of telling to the reader rather than showing them. And that’s a skill that I’ve had to try and pick up in the six years now that I’ve been working on, There’s No Place Like Summer Camp, but I’ll get onto that a little bit more in a second.
There’s a whole chapter in this book that’s based on him passing a driving test. Now, I don’t know what the hell that has to do with being in an Unplugged Summer camp. But I guess it gives you a bit of background to this guy and the run-up into summer camp. For me, it started way, way too soon. Because I wanted to get to the meat, I wanted to get to the time that he’s actually at summer camp and seeing that effect of no technology while they are at camp.
Lack of structure
The writing, I didn’t get like, the structure of this book, I didn’t understand. And that’s a real, real core problem of Unplugged Summer. It’s not in a structure where it’s day by day, it’s not in a structure where it’s chronological. And it’s not even in a structure where it’s like, week by week, it’s or like a summary of events. Sometimes it goes from one day to the next and there’s really mundane things there. At other times, it just skips over whole loads of weeks, especially when he’s actually at camp, which is funny enough, because the whole point of the book is to be about summer camp. But I was frustrated as a reader, especially as someone that was outside of this summer camp, because reading this, it was such a mishmash of people timeframes and tenses were made it hard for me to read. I can kind of take that with like a pinch of salt, because I know it’s a self-published book he’s done through the KDP programme. But when I was reading this, I was just so frustrated because it just needed a bit more care and attention and a bit more time. I didn’t know for instance, who’s who, who’s friends with who. And that’s a really hard problem to try and sort of fix as an author of a book.
That’s why it took me so long to get There’s No Place Like Summer Camp up to its release where it is today. Getting it to a point where it can be released to the public, and it’s going to be readable for the Average Joe, it’s not just going to be readable for those that are at my camp. It’s a lot more work to it than just throwing something together based on memory, and jumping all over the place, especially with the tenses and the rhythm of the book.
There’s a whole chapter in this book as well on a rainy day where George has played some football. And then he goes on a Skype call. Now, that’s a fucking chapter of the book. I don’t like to swear, but what is the point of that chapter. I’ve summed up a whole chapter of this book, where he’s saying, I’ll play some football, it rained today, and I went on Skype. What’s that doing in there? I don’t care that you did those three things that such mundane things that I could easily do at home. I didn’t understand the connection of why the unplug summer, sort of tied in with stories like that, where Skype calls, you had a Skype call. Okay, cool. Tell me a bit more. Tell me. What does that mean? So what I found that there was way too much description of really mundane boring things like the setup of an icebreaker, rather than the people that he’s meeting.
Summer camp is about the people
Surely when you go to summer camp, the people are the most important part and the relationships that people have and meeting strangers for the first time and becoming friends with those people. That’s the whole core of summer camp to me. And I’m sure that resonates with a lot of you have been to summer camp yourselves. It’s not about what are the exact rules of the icebreaker and did it rain today? Or did I have a Skype call to home. Now this is a cutting review. And I do apologise. But I think it gives you some perspective on the amount of work it takes to try and get a book that’s out there that’s going to be entertaining, educational and insightful. And that’s what I have tried to do with There’s No Place Like Summer Camp now.
A note from a fellow self-published Author
I’m not criticizing this book like I’m saying There’s No Place Like Summer Camp is going to be perfect.
Because I could see a lot of connections when I was reading George’s book here that remind myself of my time applying through the story and I’m getting myself through those processes and sort of, you know, I could see a lot of connections between our story and his or my story in his short essay. But I think it just needed a lot more work. And I was surprised actually to see at the end of the book, there’s a lot of thankyous to the people that sort of helped him to get to where he is now. And I was surprised to see that there were two editors on this.
Now, I saw a lot of issues with I think what you he needed was sort of an overall big picture, zoom out of the book, see what’s the problems with the overall rather than the spelling. I think, where the problem is, with this book is the spelling is perfect. I can’t fault the spelling. I can’t fault the grammar or anything like that, I can only follow the overall story because it’s so hard to read, and the structure is all over the place. And I’m really surprised that two editors couldn’t point that out to George.
So, like I say, there’s a lot of skimming over the details that you wish you’d learn a bit more about. Like, I want to know more about the camp, I want to know how big it is, what sort of people are there. I want to know about the specialties like there’s times during this book where I was just so frustrated, but I kept going through it because, I’m writing a book on it, I need to see what “the competition” do. But I was struck. It’s an uphill read. If you get this book, it’s going to be an uphill read. And like I say, I’m not trying to slag anyone off. I’m not saying that my book is going to be perfect. I expect reviews like this for my book. And I think constructive criticism helps.
The Book is a Circus Specialty
I’m not trying to get personal. I’m not saying George is a bad person. I’m not saying anything like that. I’m saying this project for me, personally, it didn’t connect with me. I wish it could have been better because there were some real ingredients there. That could have been so good. Like, he skips over partway, about walking past the circus specialty. And I’m like “Circus specialty!? Tell me more about that!” I would have loved to have known more about this circus specialty. I didn’t know circus was a thing that summer camps teach. What is that? Like? Did he ever have a go? It sounds so cool. But yet, it’s just skimmed over. It’s just like, oh, yeah, walk past this circle specialty. When I was taking the kids back to the cabin. Okay. You’ve just missed a real opportunity there to tell me more about your camp in particular. And I think Michael Eisner does quite well in his book. Something that I’d recommend, I did enjoy his book, a lot more than this.
Glossing over the entirety of camp
Similar to the circus speciality, also skimmed over is speed boating. One of the characters he introduces is a speed boating teacher or specialist. I want to know about speed boating. That sounds cool. Did George go on speed boating? I don’t know. Was it something that he just cut out from the book? Or is there a reason he didn’t go on the speed boating himself? Did he ever take the kids speed boating? This is frustrating because I can’t answer that and other read the book. But it’s something that The Unplugged Summer I wished delved into those details. I wish he went into a bit more about how George was thinking at the time. I think the overall bigger picture of this book is so hard to pinpoint what he’s trying to achieve here. Because it’s not so much a diary. But it’s not so much a story either. It’s nothing, there’s no base there’s no structure, there’s no thought that’s been put behind. This is exactly what I’m going to tell and why. But I have to say that adding the detail to the behind the very start of going to some accounts. That was quite cool. I have to say it’s “quite cool”, but it just went on for way too long 73 pages before you get to summer camp. Now I can tell you, that’s way too much.
Okay, I’ll finish on my last beef with this book, okay? There’s more conversation with the camps that George didn’t get into, than his first two days at camp. Now, that does sum up this book because I don’t care about the camps that he talked to one time and didn’t get in. I care about the camp that he’s going to. When I look back and think about my summer camp experience. I don’t remember exactly all of the camps that I spoke to, the process that I went through and how frustrating it was. Or even almost quitting because there’s too many steps. I don’t care about that. I care about the time spent account, the admin and boring side of paying, going for an interview, going to the doctors, getting a CRB check. That’s such mundane stuff, that it was just like I say, it was frustrating. And to see that there were more conversations with the people that he got interviewed for and then didn’t get the positions. Or he decided the camp wasn’t for him. I don’t care. I care about those first two days at camp a lot more because they’re the people that you can be at camp with. And I think it missed the mark on that one.
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The good points
So, I’ve gone over the bad points of this book. The good points. Like I say there’s a lot of there’s a lot in this book that I could kind of see myself connecting the dots from my story to his. There’s a lot in this book about mental health, which is cool. He opens up quite a bit. And for some reason he goes on he goes on these random tangents like talking about Robin Williams his death. I don’t know why that’s in the book, but he touches upon it. But he goes into mental health quite a lot. And I think this may have been written a time where now I’m completely guessing here. This may have been written at a time where he’s trying to reminisce and I don’t know what I’m trying to say. But I like how he opens up in this book. He opens this up. He’s opens himself up well.
Obtaining the visa
There’s a whole chapter in this book about him going to the London embassy getting the visa. And he paints that picture well. I enjoyed that chapter. That was the first chapter and that’s probably about page 50 that I thought are finally we’re starting to get into summer camp. He’s not doing a driving test. He’s not bored at work. He’s not applying and passed finding and applying for all these different summer camps. He’s getting his visa. And I was like Jesus Christ this time. But I enjoyed that scenario. I even had the same problem that George had, when he went to the embassy and he had missed out printing a certain document and had to go to some Cafe down the road, I had to do the exact same thing. So, seeing that in his book is cool. Because as a complete noob, to travelling myself, I didn’t have all the documents and I remember what it felt like when I had to go to this cafe down the road thinking, oh my god, I’m a complete idiot. No one else does this, who goes into a shop and asks to use their printer for fuck sake. But to see it’s a common thing. And quite a few people do it. It was cool to see.
The Four Loko connection
There’s a point in this book where he talks about Four Loko, which is a drink that I had at camp. And that was a cool touching point for me where I thought, you know what, there is something here, there is something here, I do like this. Now, George does a lot of the sleeping with the kids, because I think he’s a counsellor, if I remember rightly so, he sleeps in the kid’s cabins. And there are a couple of funny moments. But the one that stood out for me is when he’s scared of their sleepwalking. They just like stand up in the middle of the room and just like look down on him, and he’s just like, Oh, my God, what the fuck? And he just sat there like do I did do I disturb him? Do I wake him up? Now, you’re not supposed to do that it’s a real bad thing to do for someone that sleepwalking. That was quite funny.
And also liked the end of colour war, he summarized colour war quite well, especially with the closing point of the two sides of the camp, finally, finishing that war, and now coming together as one and celebrating the end of colour war. That’s something that I think a lot of summer camps will relate to..
Conclusion of Review
So, like I say, this book, I have to say, I can’t give it a great score. It reads well, there’s no spelling problems. But the strange focus on the technology side, the tenses that are all over the place. There’s a lot of telling in this book, rather than showing the reader and letting them use their imagination to like paint the picture of the things that you don’t tell the person. There’re way too many adverbs I found it was just hard to read. And it’s disappointing because I want to see other people’s stories. And I think one of the dreams for there’s no place that summer camp is to inspire other people to tell their story. Because 1000s of people do this all the time. And everyone comes back saying it’s the time of their lives. And now I’m going to publish my story of why summer camp for me was the time of mine. It took a lot of work to get my book to that point. And there’s going to be people that think its shit, there’s going to be people that love it, I hope. And I hope it inspires people to tell their own story. But I just couldn’t see that with this one.
I think there are a lot of fundamental issues, especially when there are two editors on board. I don’t know if he just hired ones that do spell-check. And that’s disappointing. But overall, a half, I can’t help but give a harsh score, because I want to stay true to myself, Okay, I don’t want to give fake scores out there. And then people go and buy a book because I recommend something. And then they’re like, actually, this is complete crap. So, I think as a score, I’m going to have to give it 2 out of 10. That’s as high as I can go. To be honest. The reason it gets 2 rather than 1out of 10 is that the Summer Camp Association because it’s a genre I like and I like to see new books within that genre because I think like I say, it’s interests me. I like to see how my camp compared to others. I just really hoped that there was there was a lot more and a lot more strategy around the book. I think it needed a lot more time in the workshop, to sort of think about how it’s written. Why is there this massive 76 Page start to this book? Why is there no telling of the story after camp and travelling with friends and that sort of thing?
I just think it missed the mark. And now I know that this comes across as in a review. That’s just absolutely slugging a book off. I know that it’s not a good look. And that’s why I’ve taken this time to go away. Think about if I want to upload this book review, and I came to the decision that I should, because if I’m not true to myself, then I don’t know what this podcast will be. And like I say, this podcast, this book that I’m writing myself, it’s a self-passion. It’s a self-starting project a side hustles you may or may think, and a lot of the podcasters and podcasts that I listen to say, you have to be true to yourself, you can’t lie. You can’t hide the truth. How are you going to grow personally, if you just keep lying to people, and you’re going to get yourself tied in knots. But also, it’s good for the person that’s not being lied to. Because I think deep down, I think in a few years, he will look back on this book and think I shouldn’t have released that. Because it feels half-finished. I think the angle that he was trying to go for with the Unplugged Summer was an interesting one.
When I saw it on Amazon, I thought that’s an interesting take, like no one’s talked about how the lack of technology is like a summer camp. But it doesn’t touch upon that at all. And it rambles far too much. And the subtitle of the book is an Englishman’s perspective of life at the American summer camp, but it’s a sort of a nothing eBook. So, like I say, two out of 10. For me, it’s harsh. If I had to give out a five it would be one out of five. And it’s not a nice thing to say. But I think you know, if I’m reading these books, I should give my opinion on them. Because I want there’s no places like summer camp to be sort of like a good place for people that are passionate about summer camp, and a good place of reliable information for my opinion on things. I don’t want to be lying on my own content.
So anyway, I’m going to wrap up this episode. I hope you enjoy it. There are other summer camp books I have read. And I haven’t done a review of on the podcasts. I can imagine people that have written a book about summer camp, or they’re like, oh, fuck, after all that off there, all that review, you’re going to go and read mine. And I’m like, hell yeah, I’m going to go read yours. But like I say, I have read, I think two other summer camp books that haven’t reviewed on the podcast yet. And I’ll be interested to try and get the people on the podcast. So, George, if you’re listening, I have nothing against you. I have nothing against anyone that I sort of talk about on this podcast. I want to have open dialogue on a reminisce about your time at summer camp. So, if you want to come on, get in touch. I’m available on Twitter at Andrew WO9. You can also enter the competition as well. theresnoplacelikesummercamp.com/competition.
It’s been a long podcast, okay. All right, guys. I’ll see in the next week’s episode. Who knows what it’ll be but yeah, I hope you enjoyed this one. It’s I can’t recommend Unplugged Summer. It’s a different angle for sure. But it’s not an angle that worked with me.