There are books that you really want to like, and there are books that really want you to like them. The Camino Club falls somewhere in between those two categories.
The Camino Club— cleverly named for the other famous delinquent group, The Breakfast Club— follows the story of three teenagers who’ve been given the choice to go to either juvie or figure out their lives on a pilgrimage in the mountains of Spain. Along the way they have to self-reflect on what brought them to this point, while juggling the friendships and relationships they make amongst each other.
The positives in the book– and there are quite a few!– is in its unflinching portrayal of teens on the brink. Diego, Shania, and Troy are very different, but they’re each at a crossroads in life in between going the right and wrong path. The book delves into how circumstance– race, sexuality, economic status– affects a developing mind and the pressures that each category can affect you.
The writing was very direct. It’s not flowery or particularly lyrical, but very present in how it portrays the unfolding events.
The characters were engaging as well! You could feel Diego’s pain in letting his mother down in the beginning. His need to prove himself as someone worthy of love. You can feel Troy’s embarrassment during the homophobic teasing even as he snaps back.
Where I think the book stumbles a bit is in its need to be so relatable, that it cements itself into stereotype. The three main characters; the angry son of a single mother, the campy gay boy trying to find himself, and the angry little rich girl. They’re characters that we have seen before and even in all of them trying to find themselves along the Camino trail, they never really move beyond their appointed stereotype. The writer also tries to pack a lot of witty, commentary into each character’s point of view. While they certainly remain distinct characters, it becomes overloaded with pandering jokes; “ha ha poor rich girl” and “ha ha get a load of that nerdy chaperone.”
I liked this book and I think that other people may find themselves between the pages.
** Thank You to NetGalley for this Advanced Copy in exchange for an honest review.