Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 607
Those who have read The Cat Ate My Gymsuit will want to follow the continued saga of Marcy Lewis in her new adventures as a camp counselor-in-training for a group of especially gifted young people. But even if you do not yet know Marcy or her favorite teacher, Finney, you will quickly identify with Marcy's problems with her parents, her new boyfriend, and the unruly camper who does her best to make life miserable for everyone. Most entertaining is Marcy's own development as she grows more accustomed to her new slender body and positive outlook on the world. The story is filled with puns, jokes, and one-liners. The camp action is highlighted by the tricks, some funny and some not, which the campers play upon one another. Told from Marcy's point of view, it is a story which asks and attempts to answer questions that are on many teenagers' minds.
Marcy Lewis was first introduced to readers as a clumsy overweight teenager in The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. But this sequel features a slimmer, more confident Marcy who, at almost fifteen years of age, becomes a Counselor-in- Training (CIT) at the arts camp founded and directed by her favorite former teacher, Ms. Finney. There's a Bat in Bunk Five supplies enough background for the reader to understand Marcy's unhappy history and thus grasp the importance of her evolution into a more understanding and compassionate person. Within an interesting plot, Danziger brings Marcy to a maturity that allows her, if only in brief moments, to stop hating her father long enough to see him as a real person with problems similar to some of her own.
The action of the arts camp provides movement crucial to retaining reader attentiveness as the problems of teenage love and alienation from adults are explored. All the camp's students have one thing in common—their unusual talent in some area of the arts. The emphasis upon creative release is strong as each young person, camper and counselors alike, is encouraged to express himself or herself. While helping supervise a dozen eleven- and twelve-year-olds, Marcy helps write the camp newsletter and annual publication. Her writing also adds to the story's framework as she envisions her own life's "plot" and herself and her acquaintances as "characters" in a story. She comments early on that "If my life were a novel, it would be one without much plot, just character development."
Although talented, the campers are not perfect people. There are many confrontations over the summer, especially with a younger camper, Ginger, precocious enough to be placed in Bunk Five with older girls, but emotionally underdeveloped. When she runs away, Marcy must face up to the same kind of responsibility most adults have for the care of their children. As the summer evolves, a romance develops for Marcy with another CIT, Ted. Marcy's feelings for Ted, while thrilling, are also frightening because she fears that her romantic relationships might fail like that of her parents, who constantly quarrel.
Developing an understanding of one's identity is the theme of this book, beginning with a scene in which Marcy is ironing name labels on all her belongings. She thinks early on that camp is her chance to escape her constantly bickering parents and to start her life over "where no one, except Ms. Finney, knows anything about her." By the end of the story Marcy does, indeed, have a better grasp of her identity, but realizes her journey to self-realization is a continuous process which may never be complete. The book's final line expresses her new, more optimistic attitude: "I can hardly wait for the next chapter."
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