Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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.
I didn't know much about this book when I first got it from Amazon. I knew it was a book about teens with emotional problems, and I was curious to see how the author would handl so many different issues that cause teens to be called "at-risk". Though widely used today, the term "at-risk" itself seems like a cliche and I was concerned that the book would be full of stereotypes. There were the requisite girls with eating disorders, kids who had tried to kill themselves, and such. But I thought the author handled each issue with insight and just enough humor to keep things from getting too bleak.
What I Liked:Characters:
I appreciated the way the author told each character's story slowly over the course of the novel. We get to know each character as one's fellow campers would. There are small nuggets of information scattered here and there, and then larger chunks are revealed. I felt this lead to an authentic presentation of how teens interact with each other. Each person used different devices to protect themselves from the judgement of others. Some used humor, others pushed people away. Madison, the main character, chose to not feel at all.
Who doesn't like a book that takes place in summer camp! The bad food, artificially bright camp counselors, camp fire sing-a-longs... Okay, I have never been to summer camp, but this book had most of what I imagined an experience like this would have, right down to the mosquitoes.
I liked the relationship between Grover and Madison. Grover is funny, endearing, and takes an immediate interest in Madison. She finds him irritating, but slowly warms up to the way he genuinely wants to get to know her. Although she has a boyfriend back home, Madison doesn't feel like anyone wants to know who she really is, until Grover.
When we finally get to the why of why Madison is at the camp, I cried. Something similar happened with a family in California (where I live), and I never thought of how this would affect other kids in that family.
What I Was Mixed About:Setting:
Yes, I loved the setting, but I did wonder how realistic it would be, in this day and age, for any of the families to afford such a camp. I have looked into the cost of a regular camp before and it was over $1000 per week. While it was important to the story that the camp continue over the entire summer, I think it stretched reality that these kids could go to such a place for eight or more weeks.
The character of Cassie is a difficult one to like. She is rude, bossy, and self-centered, which is the point. She pushes people away so she won't be disappointed with them when they let her down. While I grew to like her, I wish she would have grown just a little bit more over the course of the book. I thought she did some things in the book that were just appalling. If I were Madison, I would not have forgiven her so easily.
What I didn't Like:The Parents:
What Madison's parents did in this story is horrible. Why was it that Madison was considered the emotionally disturbed one and not her parents? Why did they get a free pass? Yes, they begin to make some progress on communicating over the course of the book, but not enough for me. When the mom explains herself to Madison, she simply says, "When you're a parent, you'll understand". Sorry, but a normal parent doesn't do that, and get to minimize their actions with the "One day you'll understand" card. I was mad for Madison, and worried for her. If the parents didn't really acknowledge what they did, or their current over-protectiveness towards Madison, how will anything change for her when she gets home?
As you can see, I really grew to adore Madison and felt protective of her by the end of the story. That is why I enjoyed this book so much. It made me care deeply about the characters. This is what a novel should do.
Release Date: December 1st, 2016
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Source: Amazon Kindle First Program
Format: ARC E-Book
Recommendation: Although cliched in parts, this is an entertaining book about teens facing their problems. It was a quick and thought-provoking read.