Author: Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Signing at BEA
Description from Goodreads:
When Cameron Post's parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they'll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief doesn't last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship--one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to "fix" her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self--even if she's not exactly sure who that is.
"The Miseducation of Cameron Post" is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.
First Sentence: "The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson."
Alright, I can tell that this is going to be a tough review for me to write, so just bear with me. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about The Miseducation of Cameron Post, henceforth to be referred to as TMoCP. I mean, I do know that I liked it. I know that parts of it made me sad, and some made me laugh, and others made me want to throw the book across the room, all emotions that Danforth no doubt intended to elicit from me as a reader. Still, some elements of it, especially the conclusion will need to sit with me for a bit before I can really pronounce my feelings about them.
TMOCP differs greatly from any of the other lgbt ya books that I've read thus far in just how up front Danforth is about the sexual side of things. I was really surprised, since that tends to be sort of glossed over, though, to be fair, I haven't yet read a ton. Danforth does not shy away from anything, and the sexual experiences, while not graphic are definitely described clearly enough that the reader has a solid conception of what's going on. I really appreciated this frankness, especially since it fits Cameron Post's personality so well.
Speaking of Cameron, she's a marvelous character, sarcastic and with a powerful sense of self. That last may be an odd trait to attribute to her, since, through the whole book, she struggles with coming to terms both with her sexuality and her parents' death in a car accident. Despite her confusion over her feelings, she never really seems to doubt her core self, even if she's not entirely convinced how she feels about that core self. Though she questions whether her sexuality is 'right,' she never doubts her attraction to women or thinks that it isn't a part of who she is. I loved that, because so many YA heroines allow their doubts to overpower a sense of self.
Her personality, her responses to events, keep the painful portions from being too incredibly awful, because she's still the same Cameron Post. Though Cameron isn't a super chatty person, she has such a powerful voice that I just love. When backed into a corner, she tells people how it is; she confronts them with her own hypocrisy. When she goes off on someone in a long monologue, it is a thing of ranty beauty.
The other thing I just have to mention that made this book so strong for me is Danforth's descriptions of feelings. She really captures the craziness of how people, or at least women, think, the little confusions and doubts. For example, she mentions how in reaction to something, Cameron will feel sad, then feel angry at herself for being mopey, and then just feel sad again. These sometimes conflicting and spiralling strong emotions are so much how I really feel on bad days, and are so much more authentic and powerful than just saying Cameron felt sad. This same technique is displayed in the complex friendship between Cameron and Jamie, which I thought was very well handled.
At this point, you may be wondering about the relatively low rating, since all of that was rather a rave, especially for me. The book did feel a bit long, dragging in some sections, particularly most of the first hundred or so pages. Ironically, my other issue is the ending, which I thought felt rushed and unsatisfying. It's the kind of ending that doesn't tell you what happens to the characters at all, and I want to know badly. Perhaps the book had to end that way for some reason, but I'm not seeing it yet. As I said, I may need time.
Those concerns aside, I will definitely be recommending this book to pretty much anyone I can, particularly if they have interest in lgbt fiction. Though this will have meaning to only a couple of my readers, I still have to state for the record that I really wish we had read this and not Dairy Queen in our lgbt fiction week in my YA resources class in library school.
Favorite Quote: "I thought about that while he made his next calls, while I kept on with the newsletters. I thought about it during Sunday service at Word of Life, and during study hours in my room, with the Viking Erin and her squeaky pink highlighter. What it meant to really believe in something—for real. Belief. The big dictionary in the Promise library said it meant something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held conviction or opinion. But even that definition, as short and simple as it was, confused me. True or real: Those were definite words; opinion and conviction just weren't—opinions wavered and changed and fluctuated with the person, the situation. And most troubling of all was the word accepts. Something one accepts. I was much better at excepting everything than accepting anything, at least anything for certain, for definite. That much I knew. That much I believed."