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Item - The Campfire Crush

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Series: Choose Your Boyfriend: Date Him or Dump Him — no. 1
Author: Busby, Cylin
Date: May, 2007
ISBN: 1599900831 / 9781599900834
Length: 162 pages
KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Most gamebooks intentionally obscure the gender of the main character, since they're aimed at both girls and boys; defining "You" as one or the other would diminish the breadth of the book's immersion experience. The Campfire Crush, and the Choose Your Boyfriend series as a whole, doesn't adhere to this traditional standard of gamebook writing, as they clearly feature a female "You" and are primarily meant to be read by girls. The age of the main character is also generally made ambiguous in interactive stories, and that's mostly true for The Campfire Crush, though on one pathway it is suggested that you are either thirteen or fourteen years old, since the boy you're crushing on is getting ready to start college next fall, and you are about five years younger than him.

You've attended Camp Butterfield since you were nine, but only now are you and your friend Missy old enough to participate as junior counselors, not just another pair of crazy campers. You couldn't be happier about your own promotion coming now; last summer you developed a secret weakness for a camper named Seth, and would like a bit more freedom to spend time together and find out if there might be chemistry between you. The junior counselor position does carry responsibilities, though, as you are reminded when the nine-year-old girls you'll be in charge of arrive and begin staking claim to various areas of the cabin, quarreling when they don't get their way. But an early rough patch can't get you down; there's a special air of expectancy surrounding camp this year, now that you've earned a little space from authority. You will be given privilege and responsibility that previously had been withheld from you, and who knows what that could mean for you and Seth? What if it turns out he is just as into you as you are into him?

Camp is a relaxed, easygoing time, so you have latitude in deciding what direction you want your summer to go. If you're put off by Seth's initial brusqueness toward you and don't feel like running after him, there are other romantic options, boys who might reciprocate the warmth of your affections as readily as you hoped Seth would. There's Eric, a friend of Seth's you may meet by the campfire; he might not be the obvious looker Seth is, but Eric possesses his own brand of cuteness, and proves very sweet in his treatment of you. Is this what you want for your summer: a cute, nice boyfriend who makes no secret of his interest in you from the start? Or is Seth still on your mind, so that you want to give him the chance to notice you even if it risks alienating Eric? There's Eli, too, who teaches horseback riding. His in-your-face Western sartorial style notwithstanding, he seems to be a nice guy who treats you with respect. But will you have to contend with brash, outspoken nine-year-old Sofie from your cabin if you have designs on snagging Eli? She's a lot younger than either of you, but Sofie already is a champion flirter, and has her heart set on winning this particular horse whisperer. Then there's Rob, the first guy you meet at camp this year, before even receiving cabin assignment. Rob is several years older than you or Missy, but you like him right away, and he isn't lacking in the looks department. Rob is in charge of whitewater rafting instruction at Camp Butterfield, and may be willing to give you a seat of honor beside him in his raft if you decide he's worth pursuing. But is Rob the guy you think he is, or are you setting yourself up for heartache by having eyes for someone that much older? There are other boys you can decide to get to know better, too: Gus, for one, and Joey. Gus has a family connection with the owners of Camp Butterfield, and conceivably could offer you special perks unavailable to other campers and counselors, and Joey's slightly dorky sweetness appeals to you in a different way than the self-assured good-looks of Seth and Rob, but all your possible boyfriends have pluses and minuses you need to consider. If Missy is really into a guy you also fancy, would you back off and let her get close to him, regardless of your feelings for the boy? If all other love connections fail—and even if they don't, but you decide the heady fun of last summer, when Seth still gave you goosebumps and made your knees weak with how you felt about him, is too good to move on from—you can return to your first love and try to steal Seth's heart as he did yours a year ago. But be wary; maybe Seth isn't the boy he was last summer, or that you thought he was, and you won't want to ignore the advances of other, better boys if Seth and you can't make inroads. There are plenty of boys at Camp Butterfield who would jump at the opportunity to show love to a kind, fun girl who's brave enough to take a chance and flirt with him a little when the time is just right. Keep your eyes and your heart open, and don't settle for less than a boy who cares about you as deeply as you care for him, and is as willing to share his heart as his lips. Your Camp Butterfield junior counselor experiment can end in tearful disgrace or thrilling reward; it depends on the choices you make.

Gameplay for The Campfire Crush is simple, even compared to Choose Your Own Adventure or Choose Your Own Nightmare. There are never more than two choices offered on a page, and even though the book is longer than those in the Choose Your Own Adventure series--one hundred sixty-two pages--it doesn't read quite that long, since many story branches circle around to others. I suppose if I could change one thing about The Campfire Crush, it would be to have a greater variety of paths that didn't eventually meet up in one of just a few central storylines. Of course, the circuitous branches allow you to test the waters with multiple boys before reaching an ending, getting to know them and deciding they aren't for you, before finding the one you want to call your boyfriend. You have to be attuned to the signs, though, and not fear making your move when you've found the right boy. Too much hesitation will leave you depressed and alone for the summer, wishing you'd shown more courage in starting a relationship with a worthwhile boy. Don't be afraid to play the game assertively and decline the courtship of a boy you know isn't for you, but step up and let him know you like him if you do. Be honest and caring, treating others the way you want to be treated, and it's likely to be a smooth ride for you during your first summer as a junior counselor.

There are minor continuity issues with some parts of The Campfire Crush, but Cylin Busby's writing is entertaining and occasionally evocative, and choosing a path that leads to successful romance is genuinely exciting. Taking your physical closeness further than a short kiss is frowned upon by the narrative, but Camp Butterfield is no nunnery. You can kiss a boy if you really like him, and holding hands is perfectly fine; in fact, sometimes it's even more wonderful and intimate than a meeting of lips. There's nothing like sitting around the campfire under the sparkling night sky next to the boy of your dreams, the only one you would want to sit huddled so close to, as you and the campers sing songs and share ghost stories in the contentment of summer freedom stretching to the distant horizon of autumn. For the record, I ended up with Eric as my boyfriend on my first trip through the book, sitting close beside the campfire and gazing happily into each other's eyes as Seth glowered at us, perturbed that I hadn't continued chasing him while he presumably was only playing at hard-to-get. But that's how it goes sometimes, and I took no pleasure in Seth's discomfort. Teenage romance doesn't usually last till death do you part, but for this special moment in time, at least, I had Eric, arguably the sweetest boy I met in all my journeys at Camp Butterfield, so why would I care to derive satisfaction from Seth's pain? There's real magic in a few of these scenes of young love discovered beneath the twilight hush, and that's why I recommend The Campfire Crush. Cylin Busby has done a nice job in this opening gamebook of the Choose Your Boyfriend series; it for sure will have me going back to read the rest. I have the feeling I'm going to enjoy myself!

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Special Thanks:Thanks to KenJenningsJeopardy74 for the cover images.
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