Authors: Jenny Ruden
PRAISE FOR CAMP UTOPIA
“Ruden has created the most unconventional and unforgettable of heroes. Cynical, vulnerable, often misguided, and always delightful, I dare you not to fall for Bethany as she fights, steals and flails her way through fat camp and beyond. This book is delicious.”
âMiriam Gershow, author of
The Local News
is a poignant, laugh out loud story about the redemptive power of friendship and forgiveness.”
âDonna Cooner, author of
“In her smart and funny debut novel, Ruden examines weight and self-doubt, friendship, anger and transformation in a story reminiscent of Louise Rennison's Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. If you've ever questioned your looks or had a toxic relationship with your bathroom scale, read this.”
âSuzanne Morgan Williams, author of the award-winning
Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet
is a laugh-out-loud romp through Bethany's journey toâand escape fromâwhat she derisively calls “fat camp.” But to call the book humor is to diminish it, because Ruden's debut novel is more than merely funny. It skewers our cultural obsession with the superficial, lampooning everything from fad diets to reality television and self-help gurus. And Bethany's inner journey from bitterness to forgiveness is one that will resonate with all readers.
Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet
for the laughs, reread it for Ruden's profound insight into the transformative power of forgiveness.”
âMike Mullen, author of
by Jenny Ruden
Â© Copyright 2014 by Jenny Ruden
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means â electronic,
mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other â except for brief quotations in printed
reviews, without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book are fictitious,
and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The names, incidents, dialogue, and opinions expressed are products of the
author's imagination and are not to be construed as real.
210 60th Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
This book is dedicated to fathers and daughters
everywhere, though to my daughters and their
father, I dedicate it a little harder.
Table Of Contents
I want to be the girl with the most cake.
~ Courtney Love
NOW ROUTING TO
HE HEARTS ME
THE NIGHT BEFORE Utopia, TJ and I had a goodbye dinner at China Hon. Everything about the evening was romantic. Magical. Perfect. All that stuff that happened between us last year? Forgotten.
Right after TJ fetched beef and broccoli from the buffet, he guided me by the elbow, saying, “I have a better idea.” Then he sat down in a horseshoe booth across the aisle and patted the space beside him. “Let's sit here tonight. That way you can sit next to me.”
So we sat in the same booth, next to each other, our thighs brushing lightly like they do in all the Delilah Rogers romance novels I read. TJ looked at me deeply then back to his plate, where he speared a green stalk of broccoli.
He sighed. “I don't think you need fat camp. I think you're beautiful just the way you are. Especially now that you gained back all that weight you lost last year.'' He squeezed my hand. “Face it, Bethany Stern, you put the Bee in obesity.”
“That's sweet, TJ, but I really should go to Utopia. I know it's far, and it will be hard not to see each other all summer, but I'll write to you every day.”
go,” he argued, feeding me a sliver of beef from his chopstick. “We should stay together. I mean I'm eighteen and you're sixteen. We can make our own decisions.” He moved closer to me, the heat between us like a blazing netherworld. “It just doesn't feel right, Bee. You not watching me graduate. You missing my
audition.” He stopped, lips poised in front of mine. “This is our last summer together. Don't leave.”
After hearing this confession, I became so overwhelmed I couldn't even finish my fried wontons.
“But, TJ, we're neighbors.” I ticked off all the obstacles in our path. “You're gorgeous. I'm not. You're graduating in two weeks, and I'll only be a lowly junior. You're a magician and an athlete, and I'm athleticallyâand magicallyâ challenged. The place we live,”âI gestured to Baltimore outside the restaurant's curtainsâ“why, it's practically a ghetto. Nothing good ever happens here.” Then I got all-out impassioned. I pounded my fist on the table. The silverware jumped, and the waiters stared. “We've been best friends for eight years, TJ. Let's not ruin it by becoming lovers.”
“Oh let's,” TJ replied, scooching even closer to me, his hot breath on my neck. “Let's!”
I climbed on TJ's lap and, behind me, he cleared the bone- white dishes off the table in one magician's swoosh. He leaned me back on packets of duck sauce and rice debris while the waiters screamed, “You two need hotel! Get out China Hon!”
TJ then carried meâyes, carried meâout of the restaurant, the doorbells jing-jangling behind us. We drove to a remote Maryland beach and scrumped as the passionate surf unreeled behind us.
Yeah. That was how it was supposed to happen.
HE HEARTS ME NOT
SO HERE'S WHAT really went down the night before fat camp. The bells on China Hon's front door jingled their same greasy song when TJ and I walked through them. Outside, Baltimore was a sweltering inferno. Inside, China Hon felt like a boiling pit. When the waiter seated us at the table closest to the dingy aquarium and across from the noisy kitchen, I thought I should really ease up on the romance novels. Maybe if I read Russian tomes about suffering and famine, it wouldn't bother me that TJ's red polo shirt sported a bird poop stain near the collar. And maybe the restaurant's plum-colored carpet would look downright chic with all those duct tape X's over the rips. I'd bet a good dose of practical, serious books would prepare me for the vinyl seats that stuck to the backs of my sweaty legs. And who knows, right? Maybe I wouldn't get so gut-twistingly disappointed when TJ looked right at me and didn't talk me out of Camp Utopia, as he'd done in my imagination, but attempted to talk me into it.