Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles



Jimmy Patterson | 2018

Filed Under: Hormones and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

Okay, okay. I know what you’re going to say. But WAIT. I know this book is a James Patterson publication. And I know the forward is written by him. With that information in mind, you may be tempted to say that I’ve already broken my New Years’ resolution to not read any Patterson, but I disagree!

I’m calling this Patterson adjacent. It’s close, but it’s not on the target.

Also, I had no idea he had anything to do with this book until it was too late, soooo…

I’m leaving this up to the judges to decide.


Judges’ ruling finds…it’s not a violation! It is NOT a violation! The crowd goes wild…

Oh, the judges are me? Go figure.

phew GIF

Now that we’ve taken care of that, onto my review for this raging dumpster campfire.

This book is supposed to be a slasher horror movie brought to life on the page, so I was stoked to read it because those are some of my favourite stories – Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th. Horror movies with a teen cast of characters can still appeal to adult viewers and readers if it’s written well.

Maddie, with her friends and family, ventures into the woods for a camping vacation. The first evening, they all gather around the campfire to tell scary stories about Mountain Men that has a The Hills Have Eyes feel to it. Someone might have even brought an acoustic guitar to make things exponentially worse.

season 3 krabby land GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

By the next evening, weird things have been happening around the campsite and Maddie realizes that the scary stories they told the night before are coming to true.

It sounds like it should be a bloody, stabby, scary good time, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a dud.

It’s not scary, the teen drama is ridiculous, the writing is mediocre, the dialogue was full-on cringe and every last character was so annoying I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. There is a serious lack of scene building throughout, making everything feel silly, cookie-cutter and one-dimensional. It also came across as if the author has no idea how drugs and alcohol affect a person, and instead wrote scenes based off a Just Say No pamphlet from the Reagan years.

And poor, sweet Maddie!! I feel for the young girl. She was a promising character that was unfortunately written by a man who obviously has no idea how teen girls behave or speak or feel. The only clear personality trait Maddie was given was the need to drool, fawn and gush over boys. Please. It seems as though the author wrote from a perspective of “that’s how I’ve seen it done before” instead of from personal experience. The lack of depth is really just sad.

That sentiment extends to the secondary characters, who have no real backstory, but are given these absolutely absurd present-day plotlines – they are all adults who can’t let go of their college years/relationships, are sleeping with people who aren’t their spouses, seem to have zero control over their actions as if they all have personality disorders, are plotting the murder of their wives and struggling with serious addiction issues… but also, they all have kids and enjoy an organized family vacation together yearly… and I just…

confused wait what GIF

Honestly, how they haven’t superglued their hands to their faces yet is beyond me. But sure, they’re “functioning adults.”

The craziness of the adults’ plotlines is not augmented in a way that makes things clear, realistic or even relevant to the central plot, which meant I didn’t care about them as characters, in turn, heightening how preposterous their actions were.

You can tell that a lot of this book is just a copy of a copy of a copy in terms of style and character creation. There are so many stereotypes I could barely keep up. Honestly, it feels like something I wrote when I was 12.

That said, is this YA? I’m unclear. It’s published by Patterson’s Little, Brown imprint, but I think a 7th grader would really like it if it was their first experience with YA-horror and they didn’t know any better?? It’s kind of presented as an adult novel though, and I think for most adult readers the writing is so juvenile it will be almost unreadable, if not a DNF.

Seriously, take a shot every time you’re reminded that Maddie’s “best friend” is Chelsea. You’ll be blacking out with a vomit bucket by the half-way mark.

If this was written as an absurd satire, in the vein of a campy 80s horror low-budget movie, maybe I would have liked it better. But it’s clearly trying to be taken seriously as a horror novel and for that, it just doesn’t work.

Campfire is not scary, it’s not gory, the characters are done an injustice and the plotline is both cliche and ridiculous.

no thank you do not want GIF


While camping in a remote location, Maddie Davenport gathers around the fire with her friends and family to tell scary stories. Caleb, the handsome young guide, shares the local legend of the ferocious Mountain Men who hunt unsuspecting campers and leave their mark by carving grisly antlers into their victims’ foreheads.

The next day, the story comes true.

Now Maddie and her family are lost in the deep woods–with no way out–being stalked by their worst nightmares. Because there were other, more horrifying stories told that night–and Maddie’s about to find out just how they end…

2 thoughts on “Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

  1. I absolutely loved reading your review of this book, it definitely made me laugh and it’s unfortunate the book wasn’t written well; adult males writing teenage girls can go so badly sometimes (not Jay Kristoff though). And haha I did indeed click upon seeing James Patterson in the preview, but I’m glad I did and you are indeed the judge that it’s not a violation 🙂


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