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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Given the ongoing interest in TV reality shows, the concept and plot behind The Girl on Camera by Morgan Dun-Campbell is timely: invite contestants to audition for a chance to win a huge financial prize and watch them line up by the thousands in the hopes of being one of the select few chosen. Fed up with a mother who’s always telling her what to do, and a boyfriend who says she’s too afraid to try anything new, Rory Stevens decides to take control of her life away from them both. She’s terrified, but auditions and to her shock is one of 8 contestants chosen to spend 3 weeks locked away in “The Retreat” with 7 strangers. All are sworn to secrecy, of course, and once moved into the retreat, they know the eyes of TV viewers around the world are watching just about everything they do and say, thanks to cameras installed throughout their secret, but rather frightening location.
Naturally, as these strangers reveal themselves to each other and TV audiences, they show their best sides but then,
suddenly, all the power goes out…permanently. It’s cold and dark and the contestants aren’t able to contact the producers. Nor have they heard from them. Discomfort and misgivings begin to set in. Were they perhaps actually kidnapped? By whom and why? Were all the people behind the TV show just hired actors? But even more worrisome is how do they get out of this complex with a massive high wall built around it? As the reality of their situation begins to hit them, and one contestant mysteriously vanishes, they reveal to each other the true faces and personalities behind the masks they wore on camera. But is anyone, besides the the reader, privy to what they reveal about themselves? And in terms of the plot line, do they manage to get out of the Retreat, and does anyone win in this rather terrifying reality show?
Morgan Dun-Campbell keeps readers turning pages, but there’s more to this plot than just its thriller aspect: it’s actually a look deep inside human motivation, the effects of bullying, and how traumatic events shape what we become as we grow. The Girl on Camera shows how and why we build walls around our true selves to hide insecurities and protect ourselves from further hurt. The book points out how little any of us knows about others, even those to whom we are closest. For some readers, it will be these insights into humanity that stay with us longer than the actual plot of The Girl on Camera.