Sunday, August 5, 2018

Dead Weight: Murder at Camp Bloom

Dead Weight is a murder mystery for YA readers. It is set a Camp Bloom, a "fat camp" where young people come to work off the pounds and learn healthy eating habits. The twist here is that one night two of the campers witness a popular counselor get brutally murdered. Of course, it was past curfew and they should not have been out, so they keep things to themselves. The next day, no one seems to have noticed what happened, and there was a note left to explain the counselor's absence. Also, from what they could see they feel that the culprit was one of the camp leaders, so they do not feel they can go to the adults. So the two campers recruit two of their friends, and the quartet becomes a team of amateur detectives.

They are a motley, diverse bunch: Jesse, a Latina girl who would rather be at fashion school than Camp Bloom; Noah, a white boy who is a veteran fat camper; Tony, an African-American boy who is freaked out to have no access to his cell phone or computer, and Kate, an aloof white girl who would rather observe nature than interact with people. They bumble their way through the investigation at first but eventually they get themselves together and solve the mystery.

For me the highlight of the book is the vibrant and energetic artwork. I love the character designs and visual storytelling, and Seely's background in animation well informs both. I think that the setting and cast are also big pluses. They might not be the most complex characters, but they are diverse in terms of identity categories, and I appreciate seeing that here. About the plot, I have to say that I did not see the ending come at all, and although there were some visual clues I think it would be impossible for a reader to solve the crime on their own. Still, I enjoyed the plot twists and this book overall. It was a fun, breezy read.

Dead Weight is the creation of writers Terry Blas and Molly Muldoon and artist Matthew Seely. Blas has lots of comics credits and is probably best known for his webcomic Briar Hollow. Muldoon is a teacher, librarian. editor, and author who has also written another story for the graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom. Seely is an artist and animator who has created a segment for MTV's Greatest Party Story Ever as well as a bunch of self-published mini-comics. Those interested in learning more about the inspirations and process of making this book can read this interview (or this one, if you prefer).

The reviews I have read about this book have been mixed, with much of the negative criticism aimed at the cast of characters, which are seen more as types than actual personalities. Kirkus Reviews called it a "lighthearted mystery with diverse characters" as well as "an accessible, if not entirely satisfying, read." Johanna Draper Carlson wrote, "Young readers who aren’t used to seeing characters like themselves, if they fit one of the many categories portrayed here, will likely be more forgiving than I was."

Dead Weight was published by Oni Press, and they have more info about it here. They also offer a video trailer for it here.

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