The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership (which is worth every penny I pay for it), I got to read my latest book a bit early. It was a Kindle First title for November, and I’m so glad I picked it. The book is The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, and it will be released to the masses on December 1st.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland is being marketed as a YA romance, but it’s so much more than that. I would even say that the romantic stuff is secondary–even tertiary–to the other happenings in the book. At its core, I think this enthralling story is about coming to terms with one’s own brokenness and learning to open up and accept help when it’s needed.

Zander Osborne does not belong at Camp Padua. She’s here because her parents signed her up–or, more accurately, don’t know what to do with her. Zander may have her own secrets and problems, but she’s definitely not as crazy as the other campers around her, especially her cabin-mate, Cassie, an abrasive girl who’s also a self-diagnosed bipolar anorexic.

As days pass, Zander continues to keep her issues to herself, but she also forms connections with some other campers. There’s Grover Cleveland (not to be confused with the president), a charming guy who fears he will one day become schizophrenic like his dad. There’s also Bek, (short for Alex Trebek), who’s an extremely likable compulsive liar. Zander even forms an unlikely, tenuous bond with Cassie, who is dealing with much more than depression and an eating disorder.

Being part of this group helps Zander in ways that no share-apy sessions ever could. She’s finally feeling and caring about something again, and she finds herself opening up, divulging her most agonizing secrets, and wanting to find some measure of happiness. And maybe, just maybe, that happiness can be found in the arms of Grover Cleveland, a boy who fears his own future while Zander is dealing with her past.

Before Zander can be truly happy, though, she’ll have to confront some painful demons, both her own and those of her new friends. Can she accept the help she needs? Can she offer help to someone who, at every turn, seems to reject the smallest kindness? And can she be truly happy with Grover when so much is weighing on both of them?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane.


Like I said at the beginning of this post, I think this book is much more than a YA romance, despite the somewhat light-hearted title, cover, and marketing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with YA romance.) There are moments of hilarity, sweetness, and fun, but there’s also a fair amount of grief, anger, and sadness. I’ll be perfectly honest here. I cried throughout the last quarter of the book. It hit me on nearly every emotional level.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland tackles some serious issues. Yes, it does so in a way that is often highly entertaining, but it’s also deliberate in addressing the problems of Zander, Cassie, Grover, and Bek. All four of these characters–and the supporting cast as well–reveal what led them to Camp Padua, and they all exhibit some measure of growth. The process is not always easy–and it’s by no means finished at the book’s conclusion–but the reader gets the clear sense that things are going to get better for the characters they’ve come to care about. That, in and of itself, is an important message.

If you’re wondering if this book is suitable for middle grade readers, I’d advise you to give it a read yourself before placing it on library or classroom shelves. It does have some mature themes and language, and some tween readers may not be ready for that. Others, on the other hand, may relate to the characters in this book and find that it is exactly what they need. As always, know your readers and use your best professional judgment.

For more information on The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland and other books by Rebekah Crane, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter.

Happy reading!

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All the Bright Places

Last night, I finished yet another of next year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominees, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.

Like The Last Time We Say Goodbye–also a SCYABA nominee–All the Bright Places deals with the subject of suicide. The two books differ, however, in how they approach the topic. While The Last Time We Say Goodbye takes a look at what happens after a loved one commits suicide, All the Bright Places kind of shows readers what leads up to it. Yes, this book also gives a glimpse of the fallout, but the bulk of the book focuses on the “before,” for lack of a better word.

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower. Both of them are there thinking about doing something drastic. In Finch’s case, he never really stops thinking about ending it all. Violet, for her part, is overcome by grief following her sister’s death and simply wants to escape.

On that fateful day, this unlikely duo eventually climbs down from the bell tower, and, though their classmates think they know what happened up there, no one but Finch and Violet knows the truth. Who really saved whom?

After the “bell tower incident,” Finch and Violet partner up for a class project. Their assignment is to explore the wonders of the state of Indiana. At first, Violet is less than enthused about the project…and working with Finch. Ever since her sister’s accident, Violet won’t get in a car. That sort of limits just how much of Indiana she and Finch can explore. Finch doesn’t let that stop them. He’s determined to enjoy every moment with Violet. After all, how many moments do they have left together?

As reluctant as she was in the beginning, Violet is enjoying her time with Finch. There’s something about his seemingly boundless energy that makes her want to join the world again. But while Violet is starting to live again, Finch wonders how long he can stay “awake.”

Finch is pulling Violet out of her self-imposed shell, but he’s also retreating into his own. Violet senses something is “off” with Finch, but she doesn’t know how to help him…or if he’d even accept any help. And his friends and family don’t seem to find anything amiss.

What can Violet do if no one will admit that anything is wrong? And is there any way to stop Finch from doing the unthinkable and leaving Violet to wander this crazy world alone?


So, you’ve probably surmised by now at least a little of what happens in this book. No, there’s not some magical happy ending, but it doesn’t leave readers feeling totally hopeless, either. As someone whose life has been touched by suicide, I really appreciate that.

Another thing I appreciate about this book is the very realistic way it portrays bipolar disorder and the stigma attached to it and other mental illnesses. Some people–often even those suffering with mental illness themselves–don’t think they have an actual medical problem. After all, it’s not like they have cancer, diabetes, or anything like that, right? Wrong. People need to pay attention to the signs of mental illness and treat it as the serious medical–and treatable–issue it is. Would attention and treatment have been enough to change the outcome of All the Bright Places? I don’t know, but it might be what it takes to save someone you know and love.

If you’re a librarian, teacher, parent, or other adult wondering if this book is a good fit for middle grade readers, I would honestly say that I’m not sure. There is some cursing, a couple of sex scenes (which for some reason freaks people out way more than graphic depictions of violence), and very frank talk of death, but that’s reality for lots of kids. Yes, even those in middle school. I would say to know your audience. Use your best judgement when recommending this book to anyone, but especially those not yet in high school.

I definitely enjoyed the time I spent with Finch and Violet, and I’m so glad the SCYABA committee chose to place this book on next year’s nominee list. All the Bright Places elicited a lot of feelings–not all of them comfortable–and I went through my fair share of tissues while reading. I predict that lots of other readers will have the same experience.

Apparently, we’ll be able to see Finch and Violet on the big screen sometime in 2017. Pre-production has already begun on the film adaptation of All the Bright Places, and Elle Fanning has been cast as Violet. I’m sure more will be revealed soon on the book’s website (which has tons of great information), but that’s all we know for now. This has the potential to be a great movie. I just hope Hollywood doesn’t screw it up (like they tend to do).