The Next Chapter

Kim Fu explores the trappings of girlhood in The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Kim Fu on exploring what happens when summer camp takes a dark turn in her novel The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore.
Kim Fu is a Canadian-born writer and editor living in Seattle. (L D’Alessandro/HarperCollins)

Far from sugar and spice and everything nice, girlhood can be dark. In Kim Fu's new novel, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, we meet a group of girls whose summer camp world of friendship bracelets and campfire songs takes an ugly turn on an overnight kayak trip. They end up stranded on a remote island and the actions that take place then and there stay with them right into their adult lives.

Shedding labels

"I think some kids love the familiarity of home, the regularity and always knowing what's going to happen every day, but some kids feel really powerless because of it. They have no control over where they go or who they see. If you grew up in the same place and you're with the same kids your whole life, you end up being labelled. They'll see you forever as the smart kid or the dumb kid or the sporty kid. Then you can go to camp and you can reinvent yourself where no one knows you. But I also think that can be really frightening and that the dynamics can be even worse because it's a pressure cooker environment where it's very intense or it can be a chance to start fresh."

Relationship with authority

"I was interested in the ways the kids saw the authority figures versus how the authority figures saw the kids and how different those relationships seemed. Also the tremendous power that the adults had over the children. They were dependent on an adult for their very survival in a way that seemed very casual to everyone. And so from a kid's perspective, if an adult ever falters, it's absolutely terrifying."

Navigating a divergent age

"The girls range from 9 to 11. I think that's a very mentally and physically divergent age. It's like physically, they just they splinter in all directions. Up until that point they're all kind of the same size. I also think that everyone is mentally developing at different rates then and some people have incredible social skills and are very good at manipulating other people and getting what they want and some people are very naive and very easy to manipulate. I also think there's still this perception that they're just little girls — that they're sweet, good and nice. And that's something that they've really internalized by that age, but they still have all this wild kid energy inside them that they're being forced more and more to suppress as they look more and more like women. It's a fascinating and kind of terrifying age."

Kim Fu's comments have been edited and condensed.