Bea can’t wait to get back to Camp Amelia. Every summer, she steps off the bus, joins her friends in the Sunflower Cabin, and forgets all about the troubles of the school year. This year, she’s got a lot of troubles — her best friend since preschool, Maisy, has suddenly started pretending she doesn’t exist. While Maisy is busy hanging out with the popular girls, Bea is stuck eating lunch in the library and feeling completely alone.

At least at Camp Amelia, Bea will have a summer away from all the drama. Or at least, that’s what she thinks — until she sees Maisy. So begins Camp Clique (Running Press Kids) by Eileen Moskowitz-Palma, a middle-grade reader that tackles some challenging yet relatable emotional territory.

Maisy never wanted to go to Camp Amelia. She’d never even been to camp before, but her dad thought it’d be good for her to get out and try some new things. Well, joke’s on him, because Maisy hates everything about the place. She can’t swim, she can’t handle the rope course or the zip line, and she especially can’t handle bunking with her former best friend, Bea.

Camp Clique is the first book in Moskowitz-Palma’s The Popularity Pact series, and things are off to an adventurous start. The story deals with the challenges of overcoming real-life problems set against all the fun of summer camp. Moskowitz-Palma explores serious issues that many children face in their own lives. Bea’s parents are divorced, and while she is close with her mom, she feels excluded by her father and his new relationship. Meanwhile, Maisy is dealing with a tough situation at home, and is struggling to find a way to process her emotions. To make things worse, when Maisy gets to camp, she’s ostracized by all the other girls — the same way that Bea was shunned all year at school. If the girls have any chance of winning The Cup in Camp Amelia’s adventure games, they have to find a way to work together.

This inspires the girls to make amends and create The Popularity Pact. If Bea helps Maisy fit in with the other girls at camp, then Maisy will make sure Bea gets included with the most popular girls in middle school. As they work out their problems, the girls find many ways to have fun at Camp Amelia; in between training for the upcoming competition, the girls sing karaoke, play pranks, and come to enjoy a summer away from the pressures of middle school.

Camp Clique is a great read that delves into complex issues, while still managing to be a lot of fun. It is a modern and informative look at tween lives, and provides a great example of positive ways of coping with change and challenges. Award-winning author Kim Tomsic calls it “Parent Trap Meets Mean Girls,” while Kirkus Reviews says, “this solid mix of s’mores and girl empowerment is encouraging but never saccharine.” During their time at Camp Amelia, Bea and Maisy come to terms with their friendship and learn that the best way to deal with their struggles is as a team.

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When Eileen Moskowitz-Palma double majored in Elementary Education and English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she thought she would have to choose between a career as a writer or a teacher. It wasn’t until she was almost 40 that she realized she could do both. Now, Eileen divides her time between writing middle-grade novels and teaching Beginner Novel Writing and Writing for Children and Young Adults at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Eileen is a fitness enthusiast and lives a vegan-ish lifestyle unless you count the occasional bacon cheeseburger. She lives in Westchester, NY, with her college sweetheart husband Douglas, their daughter Molly, and their Wire Fox Terrier Oscar, who is one snaggle-tooth away from being a doggy model.