Welcome to Camp Padau—‘Crazy Camp’ or, as the brochure proclaims, a camp for “kids with heightened mental or emotional states.” This book is a journey through the emotional landscape of kids who see the rough side of life far too early. Kids who have endured things that can and do break most of us at any age. I think this book put me in a heightened mental/emotional state as I went from fits of uncontrollable laughter to bouts of reading with tears rolling down my cheeks. And what an amazing experience it was.
The author has a smooth and easygoing writing style that gently pulls us along for the ride, occasionally slinging us into a wall of teenage emotions. The story is told from Zander’s POV—the girl who isn’t there for depression, or cutting, or suicidal tendencies, or an eating disorder, but because “my parents signed me up.” The truth is that the kids are there for any number of reasons, some because they have to be and some because they want to be.
There’s Grover Cleveland, a tall, lanky boy, named by a father who talks to dead presidents and who just so happens to have a fortuitous last name for christening his son appropriately. Grover is maddeningly captivating as a boy who lives his life by the odds… or maybe he’s just acknowledging them. And there’s Cassie, a girl who has spent her life shuffled from foster home to foster home who wears sarcasm and contempt like high tensile barbed wire to keep people from getting too close. And adorable Alex Trebek, the pudgy kid, who has a penchant for compulsive lying… except when it comes to love. It’s a wonderful cast of characters that will steal your heart, break it, and patch it back together again.
I can’t say it enough—read this book. It’s a journey. It’s life. We’re all broken and that’s okay, because we survive… sometimes against the odds.