In The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, Rebekah Crane, author of two other YA novels (Playing Nice and Aspen) tells the story of 16 year old Zander Osborne and her adventures at Camp Padua – a summer getaway for troubled teens. Zander narrates the story but does not initially tell us why her parents sent her to camp. There, she meets a cast of characters with their own set of problems and secrets, largely made up of distinctive traits rather than actual personalities.
Cassie is the angry, neglected, anorexic Black girl. Alex is the compulsive liar whose real name is always in question. In addition to Cassie, Zander shares a cabin with a cutter, a bulimic and a seemingly perfect camp counselor named Madison. We also meet the inspiration for the book title, a teenage boy who goes by the name of Grover Cleveland.
Grover immediately shows romantic interest in Zander and never lets up on her from the time they meet until the end of the book. He wants her to break up with her boyfriend back home. He is really invested in curing her aversion to apples (which turns out to be merely a plot device to reveal a horrible secret). About their troubled mutual friend Cassie, he says “I care because she doesn’t want me to”. He writes little factoids in his ever-present notebook, quoting the odds of any given scenario that pops into his head, not unlike K2S0 in “Rogue One”. He constantly reminds us that, as a teenage boy, his interests are mainly food and sex. Throughout the story, the campers parrot the “camp counselor speak” they learn at their “share-apy” sessions at each other, and I’m not always sure if it’s done ironically. Pretty sure Grover is completely here for it, though. He is the magical charmer who knows how you should live your life to the fullest, and he is going to help you achieve it. In short, he is Quirky.
But the namesake of our illustrious 22nd president is not the only guilty party here. From Camp Counselor Hayes: “We’re all warriors in our own internal battles”. And Cassie: “You’re not actually afraid of me. You’re afraid you are me!” and “You can’t run away when you’re nowhere to start”. The book was very well written and the story was engaging and easy to read. Although I admit I stopped reading a few times after a character uttered something particularly profound.
The end game here seemed to be for everyone to acknowledge their issues and share their secrets. And slowly they are all brought out into the light. We find out why Zander’s parents shipped her off. We begin to understand why Grover wants to rescue everyone. And there is a resolution to Cassie’s problems, part of which seems to be rewarding her for some very damaging behavior, although I don’t believe that was the author’s intent. In the end, we find out that everyone is a little broken, including the compulsive liar and the camp counselors.
Look, I get what Crane is trying to say here. We all have to help each other and support each other. We have to be willing to accept help. And it’s good for teens to get that message. There is some sexual content that I thought was written very sensitively. I am also fully aware that she did not write this book for the likes of me. Amazon suggested it because of reasons! I come out of this knowing that there is no way I could survive as a teenager in one of those body-switch scenarios. Please don’t make me go back. And group “share-apy” seems like it would suck. But I would recommend the book to a teenager or pre-teen. And I think it would make a decent indie movie.