REVIEW: The Camino Club by Kevin Craig

The Official Description: After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court appointed counselor/guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

Just the facts: LGBTQIA+, Young Adult, coming of age

A diverse coming-of-age tale, peppered with the beauty and philosophy of the Camino de Santiago. – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit:  This is one of those times that you should judge a book by its cover because what unfolds in the pages is as beautiful as the artwork you see above! Kevin Craig has crafted a story of epic proportions that still manages to focus down on the most important things in life.

Diego, Manny, Shania, Claire, Greg, and Troy have all found themselves in trouble. They’ve also all been given the opportunity of a lifetime.. forego any official punishment and walk the Camino de Santiago with court-appointed chaperones. The teens have mixed reactions to beginning such a trek. Reactions vary from thinking it’s the adventure of a lifetime to plotting an escape.

The teens or “pilgrims” begin their pilgrimage in Ponferadda, Spain – uncertain of themselves, leary of each other, and annoyed by their chipper counselor/guides. They must hike, meet as a group to debrief and bond, and keep an active journal.

This book is told through a few narrators and in a couple of different ways. Sometimes, the reader is treated to the mandatory journal entries that some of the pilgrims are writing. I loved the entries, as they gave me a chance to settle back into the mind of the character when there was a switch of POV. The journals also gave a kind of back-stage pass to some of the things that the teens were going through. Each of the characters has a very distinct voice and different energy so I found it easy to stick with each story.

There’s a lot going on for the characters in this novel but the story doesn’t ever escape Kevin Craig. They are a marvelous author and it’s clear from the beginning of The Camino Club that they have a love for both the trail and the characters they have created. It was an absolute delight to watch the growth and challenges that each character faced. The descriptions of the trail, the buildings, and the people the pilgrims meet on their journey are intriguing and delightful; it was almost possible to imagine I was walking along with them.

I was really thrilled to see that the characters displayed a wide range of emotions in the book. I find, sometimes, that YA characters seem almost stereotypical. I would definitely argue that’s not the case of Craig’s characters. Each of the teens is surprising in some way… perhaps they may seem “typical” on the surface but as they travel it’s made clear that there is a lot going on for each of them.

They face some very real and timely issues as they walk together. For instance, Troy is teased about being gay… he’s fine with it at first and then realizes that it has crossed over to the “meanness” that’s he’s come to associate with bullying. As hurt as he is by the words… he finds the courage to speak up about it. I loved that the teens in the story were often the ones who were having very real conversations with each other about what was and wasn’t okay.

Ultimately, I would say this book is about finding your tribe as you find out more about who you are. There are losses along the way, bonds are forged and broken. Like the film The Breakfast Club which the characters discuss a few times, these teens will stay with you.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Character’s family member dies over the course of the book, discussions of people dying in the past, supporting character has cancer and is dying, homophobia (corrected and behavior changed), microaggressions, a character has been subjected to conversation therapy (other characters reinforce that it is wrong and shouldn’t happen)

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of The Camino club by Kevin Craig from Interlude via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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