FeaturedComing of Age

On the Waterfront


Loved it! 😍

Thirteen-year-old Danny Novak overcomes a troubled past to take step forward in this warm, compelling coming of age tale.

It’s the summer of 1972 and 13-year-old Danny Novak is hired to be a counselor at Camp Baker, an Oregon Boy Scout summer camp. For Danny it is an escape from a troubled home life in a hardscrabble factory town where he lives with his younger brother and mother, who is trying haphazardly, in Danny’s telling, to find a new husband and turn their life around. Camp Baker is Danny’s escape.

In Mike McCoy’s “On the Waterfront,” Danny’s camp summer is the place he learns about friendship, love, caring and begins to shed the troubles he has known. Based on McCoy’s own Boy Scout camp experiences and life, the story at times slips from a fictional telling to a sounding like a memoir.

The story is filled with boyish summer camp shenanigans, sex talk and tough guy challenges that shape this warm coming -of-age tale in important ways. It captures the flavor of a time of innocence rimmed by a darkness of rejection that a boy of Danny’s upbringing would know.

The center of the story is Danny’s efforts to prove himself to others (and himself), first as a kitchen hand, then a waterfront helper, and finally as a swimmer, seeking the coveted red Speedo, the symbol of acceptance. Danny has skills and smarts, but how to show the other counselors and camp leaders that he is worthy of their acceptance?

Danny’s growing friendship with another counselor Mark is key. Mark, like Danny is an outsider, a kid with a questionable past that spurs rumors. The push and pull of their relationship drives the gentle plot of the story, and provides the moment of genuine poignancy. The central story is strong enough to overcome sections of flat writing and a general lack of deeper character development needed to fill in the whole camp experience.

A story with the possibility that it could spill downward toward a simmering anger, instead offers hope, growth and forgiveness.

Reviewed by

I am a career award-winning journalist and the author of the four-book Frank Nagler Mystery series. Kirkus Reviews called Nagler "one of modern fiction's expertly drawn detectives." I have also written short stores, poetry, and literary fiction.

About the author

Mike McCoy is a novelist. His debut novel ASTEROIDS–Bridge to Nowhere, received high praise from critics and was selected as a semifinalist for the 2020 Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize. Mike is also an international businessman and a serial entrepreneur who has traveled extensively. view profile

Published on January 30, 2023

50000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Coming of Age

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