According to sixteen-year-old Zander Osborne, nowhere is an actual place—and she’s just fine there. But her parents insist that she get out of her head—and her home state—and attend Camp Padua, a summer camp for at-risk teens.
Zander does not fit in—or so she thinks. She has only one word for her fellow campers: crazy. In fact, the whole camp population exists somewhere between disaster and diagnosis. There’s her cabinmate Cassie, a self-described manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic. Grover Cleveland (yes, like the president), a cute but confrontational boy who expects to be schizophrenic someday, odds being what they are. And Bek, a charmingly confounding pathological liar.
But amid group “share-apy” sessions and forbidden late-night outings, unlikely friendships form, and as the Michigan summer heats up, the four teens begin to reveal their tragic secrets. Zander finds herself inextricably drawn to Grover’s earnest charms, and she begins to wonder if she could be happy. But first she must come completely unraveled to have any hope of putting herself back together again.
While I enjoyed parts of this book, I was ultimately disappointed with the way the author handled the very heavy and serious themes of mental illness. The book came across as light and happy, and in my opinion did not give the reader a good idea of the seriousness of the topic. However, the writing was good and if you know what to expect going into this book you may enjoy it.
That stunning cover is what initially drew me to this book. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into after reading the synopsis, but it sounded interesting enough. The book opens with Zander being sent off to a camp for at-risk teens. We meet a colorful array of characters- Bek the compulsive liar, Grover the potential schozophrenic and Cassie a manic-depressive with an eating disorder. We don’t know why Zander is at the camp yet, but we start to get bits and pieces of her story via the cleverly placed letters at the beginning of every chapter.
While I appreciated the individuality of each of these characters, I didn’t appreciate how lightly these very serious issues were treated. This camp housed teens with very serious mental illnesses and the author made the camp seem light, funny and that everything could be cured through their silly share-apy sessions with inept counselors (Sorry, Madison). I feel like this book simplified mental illness and did not spend enough time or respect on these themes.
I also found the title a bit misleading, while Grover can be considered a major character we did not dive into his background much. And while Zander and Grover did develop a relationship, it was not the focal point of the story so I found it confusing that the title suggested this. The story was actually about Zander and Cassie’s relationship– and while it was very sweet at times, I again feel like Cassie did not get the depth she deserved as such a complex character.
While I may seem critical of this story, it did flow nicely and had a nice message despite the fact that I had issues with the topics mentioned above. The characters were quirky and likable. Zander had an odd and slightly disturbing reason for coming to camp and I wish I could have understood more of what was going on in her head. The ending was also nice, but a little too tidy and unrealistic in my opinion.
This will certainly not be a book for everyone, and while I did enjoy aspects of it I ultimately had an issue with some of the core values of the story. However, I gave it three stars because the writing was good and the overall story flowed nicely. It may be a better fit for some people! Have any of you read this book? What did you think?