Register Today for Quarantine: The Summer Camp!

Quarantine the Summer Camp Graphic Header

By Elizabeth Schewe, Guest Blogger 

Three years ago, 250 high school students entered the world of McKinley High at Quarantine: The STEM Read Experience. In the years since the field trip we have received dozens of requests to run the trip again. With that said…

NIU STEM Read is proud to introduce “Quarantine: The Summer Camp,” based on the popular young adult novel by Lex Thomas. This residential camp for students entering grades 9 through 12 will immerse students in a week of writing, science and games based on the world of this dystopian novel.

The camp, which runs from July 21-26 at Northern Illinois University, will feature lab visits, meetings with experts and the book’s authors, short-story writing, and hands-on science and art challenges, culminating in a final game based on the novel.

Registration is now open at

A highlight of the week will be meeting and sharing dinner with the book’s authors Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies (who write under the pen name Lex Thomas).

“The idea that Quarantine has become a summer camp blows my mind,” says Voorhies. “I’m leaping out of my skin in excitement!”

Hrabe agrees that it is mind blowing to see the book develop a life beyond the pages. “For the longest time, these characters and scenarios didn’t have a life beyond the walls of the rooms in which we were writing,” he says. “Now, they live in other people’s imaginations. They mean things to readers in a way we never could have predicted. It’s weird and powerful and cool all at the same time.”

“‘Quarantine: The Loners’ is definitely in non-required reading territory,” STEM Read director Gillian King-Cargile says of the book, “and that’s one of the things I really like about it.”

She continues, “You have this crazy book about kids who are locked inside their high school because they carry a deadly disease, and they’re engaged in basically warfare, divided by their social cliques. It’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ meets ‘The Breakfast Club,’ and it’s not for the faint of heart.”

So why would teens want to spend a week immersing themselves in such a bleak fictional world?

“With a post-apocalyptic-type novel like this one, there’s actually a lot of room for creativity and a lot of room to explore subjects like engineering, economics, human health, disaster response and epidemiology,” King-Cargile says. “You can ask all of these scientific and philosophical questions about how humans organize their physical spaces and economic and social structures.”

King-Cargile says the students will meet with NIU experts such as economist Tammy Batson. They’ll also have a chance to visit labs such as the NIU Blood Pathology Lab, engineering labs and psychology labs to participate in hands-on activities related to the book.

Campers will also meet with an expert in costume design, create their own costumes and spend the week writing and revising a short story of their own set in the world of the book. They’ll even have a chance to participate in a writing workshop with Hrabe and Voorhies. Hrabe and Voohries are looking forward to workshopping writing with young people. “Finding out that a reader has connected with what we created is so satisfying,” says Voorhies. “And I love talking creativity and answering questions on the nuts and bolts of making things.”

Hrabe agrees. “I think it’s important to know at that age that your story is as valid as anyone else’s. The trick is to tell it well,” he says. “If talking about our process can help inspire students to bring their stories to life, that’s what it’s all about.”

“I want to emphasize that this camp is very interdisciplinary,” King-Cargile says. “If you’re someone who might be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and might also be interested in writing, costumes or workshopping your writing with published authors, all of that will be happening. This is a camp where you get to explore many different subjects instead of choosing just a single field.”

Because of the variety of activities and labs students will be exploring, King-Cargile says the camp is also a great way to experience campus life. “Campers will be living in the newly renovated residence hall, working in the labs and classrooms, speaking with experts from across the campus,” she says. “They’ll really get that college experience.”

When campers register, they’ll receive a copy of “Quarantine: The Loners,” which is the first book of the “Quarantine” series. “If they read all the books that’s great!” King-Cargile says. “But we’ll try not to spoil it for kids who haven’t read the whole series yet.” STEM Read is one of the many ways that Northern Illinois University strives to share knowledge and enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). STEM Read funded by NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement, in the Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development.

For more information or to register, visit