Samurai Summer

Book review by
Karen Wirsing, Common Sense Media
Samurai Summer Book Poster Image
Swedish summer camp thriller gets lost in translation.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn a bit of Japanese folklore along with the way of the Samurai.

Positive Messages

A creative imagination may be the most important component when survival is the main objective.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults in Samurai Summer are not ideal role models. They abuse their power and take advantage of the children. However, the main character, Kenny, demonstrates resilience and independence while remaining loyal to his best friends.


There's some schoolyard bullying. A group of older kids dunk a younger boy under water. Also, an adult hits a child over the head, and it's implied that a grown man attempts to sexually assault a young girl.


The word "s--t" is used twice, along with the word "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It's mentioned that the woman who runs the camp always smells of alcohol, and another camp counselor smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Samurai Summer is a thriller set in an evil summer camp. The translated story, by award-wining Swedish crime novel writer Åke Edwardson, maintains an eerie and dark energy throughout but saves all the action for the very end. There's some schoolyard bullying among campers, and counselors show a deep ambivalence toward the children. In the most unsettling part of the book, a girl runs away from a man who attempts to lock her in a room with him. The reader never discovers what his intentions are, but an attempted sexual assault is implied. 

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What's the story?

SAMURAI SUMMER is a thriller set in Swedish summer camp in the early 1960s.Young Kenny's had to go to the rotten camp for as long as he can remember. The camp's run by a malevolent woman and her evil son, Christian, who force the campers to eat the same mush for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. The only way Kenny has survived summer after summer at the terrible camp is by imagining himself and his comrades as samurai warriors. Kenny and his gang are in the midst of building an extravagant castle in the middle of the forest to escape the awful camp counselors, when all of a sudden his good friend Kerstin goes missing. This event challenges Kenny and the other Samurais to better understand who they can and cannot trust. Will the camp kids come together to solve the mystery, or will Kenny’s rival gang ruin everything?

Is it any good?

Samurai Summer is as short on plot as it is intriguing characters. The characters in this story are definitely mysterious, but that's only because the reader never gets any information about them. Unfortunately, most of the book is a detailed account of the terrible meals served in the mess hall and fog rolling in over the lake rather than the development of a more concrete story. Atmospheric details are great when paired with a compelling theme that builds to an exciting climax. Samurai Summer has a sinister energy but lacks any action until the final pages, which will still leave readers asking themselves, "What have I just learned?"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bullying. Have you ever been the victim of bullying or bullied someone else? What are some ways to prevent or stop bullying?

  • Why do you think stories about summer camps are so popular? What other books or movies about camp have you read or watched? 

  • How do you think the mystery element works with the other parts of the story? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries and thrillers

Themes & Topics

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