The twins and all their friends are getting ready to go away to camp for the first time ever. They all go to the mall to do some shopping and run into Grace Oliver. She tells them that she was supposed to go to camp but now can't and then runs away crying. Liz chases her down, shoulder pats her, and finds out that Grace's parents are fighting a lot and considering a divorce. They decided to take separate vacations to make a decision and send her to her godmother's house instead.
Liz convinces her that she should talk to her parents and tell them that she really wants to go to camp. Grace agrees, but comes home to find them shouting at each other once again. Worried that telling them how she feels will lead to an even bigger fight, she just runs away and hides in her room. And Lila shows up at the mall to announce that she's not going to camp anymore because she's now going to Paris and possibly London with her grandmother.
The twins arrive at camp and find out that they're in a bunk with Amy, Ellen, Kimberly Haver, Kerry Glenn, and some random girl named Nancy. This mean counselor named Tina bosses them around and has them make all the beds. Jess short sheets the counselor's bed because she thinks they're stuck with Tina, but their counselor is actually a nice girl. Luckily, she thinks the whole thing is funny.
At the campfire that night, the counselors take turns telling them some scary stories. The head of the camp then tells them the legend of Crying Moon Mountain, this tiny nearby hill with a little cabin at the top. It's pretty much your classic Native American tale of a princess falling in love with a warrior from another tribe. Her people caught her lover and killed him, and now she haunts the hill. Jessica swears that she sees a light in the cabin, and when Elizabeth and Amy make fun of her, she dares them to sneak up to the cabin the next night.
Neither one really wants to do it, but they sneak off anyway. Jessica shows up, scares them, and they all get scared when they hear noises coming from the cabin and see a dark shadow. It turns out that it's just Grace. Instead of going to her godmother's house, she got on one of the camp buses and has been hiding out in the cabin even since. They decide to sneak her into a bunch of things and keep her hidden with the help of the other campers.
We also meet a bitchy little girl named Barbara. She winds up getting assigned to their group during a scavenger hunt. After finding the first clue, she suggests that they just steal from the other teams. While this sounds like something Jessica would totally do, they act all shocked and decide they don't like her.
Everyone has fun hiding Grace. She gets to go on nature hikes, join their swimming group, and even take arts and crafts lessons. Each cabin must put on a show one night, and Grace takes part in theirs. Barbara comes up to Liz later and asks about the new girl. Liz pretends that she has no clue what the girl is talking about.
During movie night, they almost get caught sneaking in until Barbara steps up and saves them. The next day, she comes over and tells them that she had so much fun, sarcastically of course, that she wants to join their cabin. If they refuse, she'll tell everyone about Grace. She refuses to do any chores, makes them give her their snacks, and acts like a massive brat. Grace starts worrying and wondering if she should just go home.
Since Jessica can't go six seconds without a guy noticing her, she decides that they should hold a dance with the boys' camp across the lake. After getting most of the girls to sign a petition, Kimberly points out that she should ask the guys too. That leads to Jess and Grace sneaking a canoe across the water. While the Sweet Valley guys could care less about a dance, some new guy named Sandy thinks Jess is hot and agrees to get their signatures.
While on an overnight camping trip, the girls want to sleep outside but Barbara refuses. Jess, Ellen, Amy, and Liz are the only ones who stay out. They hear some weird noises in the woods and get freaked out until the guys come running out and give her the petition. Jamie, their counselor, catches them but decides not to punish them for completely and totally breaking the rules. Right before she goes to present the petition, Barbara shuts her down and makes it clear that she'll tattle if they go forward with plans for a dance because she doesn't like dances.
Grace spent a few days working on a sculpture of her favorite horse. She wants to enter it in the arts and crafts contest but can't so she feels super crappy. The night of the contest, Liz finds out that Barbara entered the sculpture. Word spreads around camp, and when Barbara wins, no one applauds. Barbara tries to defend herself, only to have Jessica totally shut her down.
Barbara spends a good portion of the book disappearing and no one knows where she goes. She comes back one day with a note for the twins from Grace that says she decided to go to her godmother's house. Since there's a storm coming, they want to check on her. Tina grudgingly lets them use the phone when they claim they forgot their mom's birthday, but when they call the station, they learn Grace never showed up. After talking it over, they go the head of the camp and tell her what happened, which causes her to spring into action.
Meanwhile, Barbara goes to the cabin, which is where she's been going all along. How she never ran into Grace is something we will never know. She pulls out some letters from her parents, and we learn that they're in the midst of a messy divorce and keep putting her in the middle. Grace comes out from the bedroom and tells her that she had to turn around because of the storm and hurt her ankle. She also reveals that she read the letters and knows what Barbara is going through.
They argue a little, Barbara cries, and then lightning hits the cabin. She runs outside and plans to run back to camp before remembering that Grace hurt her ankle. Barbara runs back in, wakes Grace up, and practically drags her out of the cabin. They then run into the head of the camp, some counselors, and Grace's mom who was just a few hours away. Grace tries to thank Barbara and tells everyone how the other girl saved her.
Grace's dad also shows up. They have a long talk about all the fighting and suddenly realize how their daughter must feel. They still haven't decided whether to get a divorce but agree to stop putting her in the middle. Her dad gives her the option of taking a vacation together or going back home, but she decides to stay at camp.
When Barbara gets back to the cabin, she and Jessica have a major confrontation. The other girls leave, and Jessica starts tossing all of Barbara's stuff outside. Grace shows up and tells them everything that happened, and Barbara tells them that she only entered the horse sculpture because she thought Grace deserved to win. After everyone makes up, they get to have their dance. Everyone is suddenly BFFs with Barbara, and Jerry McAllister from Sweet Valley even develops a crush on her.
*Quick question, since when does Lila have a grandmother? I'm pretty sure she never gets brought up again.
*I love that the parents send sixth grade girls out to do their own shopping before going to camp, especially since Alice later takes the twins shopping before another trip.
*Did anyone ever go away to a camp like this? The camp sends a bus to pick everyone up and drive them to camp, just like in the BSC camp book.
*The cabin thing is weird. They have one empty bed because Lila didn't show up, but they still have six girls from SV there and one other girl. Wouldn't they try to mix things up so kids get to know new people instead of hanging out with the exact same people they always do?
*The scavenger hunt makes no sense either. Each group starts out with a clue that leads them to another clue, etc. etc. until they get to the very end, but each group starts at a different spot. Each spot also only has one clue, so it seems like whatever group gets the clue closest to the end will automatically win.
*Also, Barbara winds up on their team because Tina says they had too many teams. Uh, why didn't they count the cabins before setting things up? They literally have to take a girl from that cabin and put her with another cabin because they have too many teams.
*The camp runs for like two weeks or less and yet has its own newsletter. Liz is naturally in charge of assigning stories and editing it.
*Tina acts really mean about them using the phone, but the camp has its own frigging pay phone. Why have a phone if no one can use it?
*Ellen and Jessica both get letters from Lila who hates her trip. Her grandmother keeps taking her to museums and boring stuff, and she complains that she hasn't met a single cute guy.
*The cabin that Grace stayed in actually burns to the ground while they're waiting for help to arrive.
*I'm so tired of books where the bitchy little girl has some hidden reason for being bitchy. Barbara is supposedly so upset over her parents' divorce that she can't handle being around other people, so she just sits in the cabin and reads their letters over and over again.
*What type of camp just lets a kid take off too? The head of the camp tells the counselors to just let her do whatever she wants.
*Jessica brought up the dance on the first night, the camp head said she would think about it, and then nothing happened. The guys, not knowing that the petition was secret, told their counselors who called her for the details, which is why they ended up having a dance.