Written by Nicole Melleby and A. J. Sass.

Published by Algonquin Young Readers, 2023

Hurrah, summer has arrived, and twelve-year-old Abigail (she/her/hers) is excited to attend Camp QUILTBAG, an inclusive two-week retreat for queer and trans kids. After her crush on her friend’s mom was discovered by friends back home, Abigail was teased and then excluded from her friends’ cliquey social activities. As a young “out” lesbian, she hopes to make new friends who will like and accept her for her true self. Thirteen-year-old Kai (e/em/eir) is not excited to attend Camp QUILTBAG. E would rather stay at home with eir best friend and eir parkour team. After Kai came out as nonbinary at school, an incident with a couple of kids left Kai with a dislocated shoulder, and eir parents thought it would be a good idea for Kai to get away for a couple of weeks while eir shoulder is healing, and to be in a more welcoming and inclusive setting with kids like em.

After a bit of a rocky start at camp, Abigail and Kai make a pact to help each other find their footing, all while navigating romantic crushes, their queer identities, and a competition that will pit cabin against cabin. The name of the camp – QUILTBAG – is the acronym for Queer, Unidentified, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, and Gay, though there are more than one meaning for each letter. One camper has expressed disappointment that not all queer identities are represented by the camp’s name, hence an announced competition. The idea is that the camp needs a new name that lets every camper know that they have a place and a reason for being in this world. The cabin that wins the camp competition will be awarded the opportunity to rename the camp, with a name that is inclusive of all identities.

Abigail and Kai’s friendship is at the heart of this story, with each chapter alternating their narratives, perspectives, and voices. Kai is like a guiding older sibling for naïve and inexperienced Abigail, who is nervous and unsure of herself, and always wants to do right by Kai. The camp itself is awesome in all respects. It is inclusive and welcoming, with an incredibly diverse group of campers and counselors, with varying ethnicities, religions, genders, identities, and pronouns. This book is a fun summer read for upper elementary and middle school readers. Camp QUILTBAG offers a safe community where kids can explore their identities, use preferred pronouns, and even change pronouns from day-to-day if they like. Abigail and Kai and their camp friends enjoy two weeks of fun and acceptance that guides them toward being fully themselves. 

Of special note: For readers of This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us published in 2021 by Knopf, and reviewed in the January 2022 issue of Real News, Abigail is the main character of Nicole Melleby’s short story titled Stacy’s Mom, and Kai is the main character of A.J. Sass’s short story titled Balancing Acts. In Camp QUILTBAG, these two characters meet up, and this book becomes the continuation of Abigail’s and Kai’s stories.

Nicole Melleby (she/her) is the author of other award-winning middle-grade books including Hurricane Season, and How to Become a Planet. She lives with her wife and their cats in New Jersey and teaches at the Fairleigh Dickinson MFA Creative Writing Program. She can be followed on Twitter @LadyMelleby

A.J. Sass (he/they) is the author of other award-winning middle-grade books including Ellen Outside the Lines, and Ana on the Edge. When he is not writing, A.J. enjoys figure skating and traveling. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his husband and two cats. Visit him online at and follow him on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram @matokah  

This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans advocate Barb Shumer, who is a past board member and retired public librarian.

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