ARC Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

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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…


****Thank you to Jimmy Patterson Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!****

****Trigger Warnings: Parent Death, Grief, Physical Abuse, Drug and Alcohol Consumption, Animal Death (Brief Scene), Violence, and Gore****

I have to say I’m always looking for a good YA horror book to read and “Campfire” seemed to fit the bill. While it wasn’t all I was hoping for it was still an enjoyable summer read! I like to think I’m a pretty seasoned horror reader/watcher so it takes a lot to actually scare me, this one didn’t really, but I can see it being enough to creep other readers out.


The story revolves around a group of family and friends going up into the mountains on a week long camping trip, however, in order to help pass the time they decide to start telling spooky stories around the campfire. The guide mysteriously warns them that stories told around a campfire on the full moon tend to come true. That’s pretty much the gist of the story without spoiling anything, some creepy stuff does start happening hence the fact that this IS a horror book but as I said I didn’t think it was all that scary. Fun. But not scary. It has a classic slasher/B-Horror movie feel to it and as I already briefly mentioned I think some readers will find this perfectly creepy enough though.

There were also a lot of side plots happening and overall it felt like the story was a bit all over the place, it wasn’t too messy but it felt like a bit much at the same time. There’s a lot of family drama going on while they’re out on this camping trip and when I say family drama I mean pretty much everything you can think of, but I won’t go into detail since I don’t want to spoil anything. It was a little too much drama being crammed into a horror story, nothing ever felt that shocking to me because of how much there was that was happening.

One thing I did like about all of the side stuff going on though was that when they told their campfire stories we actually read through the stories. It was pretty fun to read some scary stories within a scary story, I liked the idea!

Overall it was a pretty quick read for me, the writing style was very easy to read and at times felt more like a Middle Grade than a Young Adult. I didn’t mind this too terribly much but it was pretty jarring to go from some immature/cheesy sounding teenager’s dialogue to blood, gore, and general horror. The pacing was decently fast as well, there weren’t any boring lulls and there was pretty much something constantly happening.

The ending had a pretty good plot twist, one I didn’t see coming at all. So props to Shawn Sarles for really throwing me off his track! However, there was just something a little too convenient and abrupt about the twist like it made sense but at the same time felt weird which therefore made the ending feel pretty weird. I can’t discuss it too much because you know…spoilers and all but I liked that the twist surprised me but I didn’t like how the twist or ending was played out.

Just a little side thought: I liked the mountain/wilderness, camping, campfire story setting and feel of the book. It definitely makes for a great summer night read or book to take with you camping in my opinion.


The characters were all just sort of okay and I really wasn’t expecting much since in horror books and movies the characters don’t tend to be too complex because they’re just going to get killed off anyways. We did get a pretty good backstory with our main character, Maddie, and she was the most developed character. I actually felt more for her than anyone else just because we got more insight into her character and what she’s been through. I did really like her relationship with Chelsea, her best friend, it was a very positive female friendship and I liked how they went from enemies to friends when they were younger and bonded over their mutual loss.

The only other character with some personality was the guide, Caleb, who also played the role of the love interest. He’s just a sweet guy and I liked him!

As for everyone else in the camping group, they were either super one dimensional or just plain annoying. Everyone pretty much fit into classic horror story stereotypes but not in a good, fun way. The kids/teens were all 10x smarter than the adults, which felt ridiculous. Like the out of this entire group of people there isn’t one smart or logical adult? Come on. The adults all got on my nerves so much, I am not kidding when I say the kids made smarter decisions.


There is a bit of romance in “Campfire” in the form of an unrequited crush. Maddie is moony-eyed over the cute guide, Caleb, but there is a bit of an age gap (she is 16 and he’s 22). I did think both characters were adorable though and while it did tend to get a bit annoying when she kept observing him longingly throughout the entire book, the romance didn’t completely overshadow the plot.

in conclusion

What I Loved:

  • Fast pacing
  • Reading the scary campfire stories within the story
  • Surprising plot twist at the end
  • Decent main character/heroine
  • Positive female friendship
  • Sweet, adorable love interest
  • Romance didn’t overshadow the plot
  • Overall camping/campfire atmosphere

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Overall didn’t creep me out or scare me
  • Too much extra family/friend drama
  • Writing and dialogue felt a little immature at times
  • Ending didn’t feel realistic or very believable
  • Side characters were one dimensional and very annoying
  • Teens made smarter decisions than the adults 100% of the time (this felt unrealistic to me)


This is a tough book for me to pin down my feelings on, it did have it’s issues but it was still enjoyable enough. I would say if you’re a horror buff looking for a good scare then maybe this isn’t for you but if you’re looking for a fun, suspenseful summer campfire read then I’d say this is worth checking out. Also if you’re easily scared and like it I’d check this one out too!

Book Links: Goodreads / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Amazon

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The Sassy


11 thoughts on “ARC Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

  1. Lucy C July 11, 2018 / 11:03 am

    This does sound right up my alley and a perfect read for the summer. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Destiny @ Howling Libraries July 11, 2018 / 2:01 pm

    Great review! I requested this one on Edelweiss and was declined, and I remember being pretty bummed out, but then thinking to myself, “Well, maybe it wasn’t going to be the right read for you!” (which is what I always try to comfort myself with when I get declined, lol) After reading your review, though it sounds like a great book for the right audience, it makes me think I wouldn’t have been the right reader for it. ♥ So your review made me feel a lot better! And I’m glad you were still able to enjoy parts of it, even if it wasn’t a 5-star read for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather @ The Sassy Book Geek July 24, 2018 / 3:37 pm

      Thank you Destiny, as always!

      I always try and comfort myself like that as well, like I know the book will be out eventually but it’s still disappointing not getting approved! I would say it probably wasn’t the right read for you though, like it was an okay story but overall just kind of “eh”. Not awful but definitely not as awesome as I thought it would be. I needed a bit more of the horror! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Destiny @ Howling Libraries July 25, 2018 / 11:05 pm

        Thank you for the honesty! I find that’s a problem I have with so many YA horror stories – I think I’ve probably ranted to you about this before, but I get sad because I feel like so many YA horror books just don’t focus on the scary stuff enough!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heather @ The Sassy Book Geek July 26, 2018 / 3:44 pm

        I totally agree with you, and that is exactly why they’re so disappointing. And it’s not like there’s an abundance out there to sift through either, it’s a very underrated genre in YA unfortunately. But that won’t stop me from searching haha 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Heather @ The Sassy Book Geek July 24, 2018 / 3:42 pm

      Thank you and glad you agree! That ending was just kind of like “WHAT?!” it didn’t make as much sense as I wanted it to like everything was kind of smushed together at the last minute! 🙂


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