As in the last TRD, this was a book that came in one of my Book Riot boxes. I was horrible at keeping up with these, and I cannot remember which one it was to save my life. But I’ve had it hanging around in my TBR pile for awhile now, and I finally dove into it. I tore through it in just four days; I even took it to work one day to read on my lunch break. It’s good, y’all.
Cameron Post is 12 years old the first time she kisses a girl. That girl is her best friend, and they’re just kids anyway, it’s not a big deal. Yet when Cameron’s parents are killed in a car accident, her first feeling is relief, knowing they won’t find out what she’s done.
After her parents’ deaths, Cameron’s aunt Ruth moves in with Cameron and her grandmother. Cameron grows up, moves on to high school. She hangs out with mostly boys, and she still likes kissing girls, but some part of her is afraid of what would happen if the folks in her small, rural Montana town ever found out.
When a gorgeous girl named Coley Taylor transfers to Cameron’s high school, Cameron starts to wonder if maybe getting found out isn’t so bad, if the girl on her arm could be Coley Taylor. But it isn’t long before she is found out, and conservative aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” Cameron.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is Emily Danforth’s debut novel, and it is nothing if not a strong start. It won the 2012 Montana Book Award and was a 2013 nominee for the ALA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award. It isn’t hard to see why; this book is an absolute emotional roller coaster. Danforth’s imagery was a storyboard artist’s dream; the scenes are laid out with such care and precision, effortlessly painting vivid pictures of hot summer Montana nights and deep forests and quiet, reassuring snowfalls. But her characters were so well-realized, so honestly depicted that I found myself aching for their losses, alternately loving and then hating and then loving again some characters, and even rolling my eyes when some characters showed up on the page.
While the plot’s main character faces struggles I have personally never endured and can’t even imagine enduring, I felt like I knew her. I felt like maybe, on some level, I almost understood her. By the end of the novel, she felt like a dear friend, even if sometimes she annoyed me and infuriated me. That’s what teenagers do, I suppose.
This book is raw, it’s honest; it pulls no punches. At times it was hard to read. It made my chest hurt to think about one person, any person, enduring the problems that seem to loom over Cameron Post, not only to endure them but to retain one’s sense of self. It is an emotionally difficult read with a messy-in-the-best-way ending, but I think it is absolutely worth the read.
How I found it: A Book Riot box. I have no idea which one. I will take better notes from now on …
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT+, coming-of-age
Does it pass the Bechdel test? Yes
Any content warnings?: This is a new line item I’ve added, as I’ve noticed that many of the books I’ve been reading lately include content that might not be suitable for all ages or that may be difficult for some people to read comfortably. I am not opening a discussion on the appropriateness or necessity of trigger warnings/content warnings/content notes/whatever you want to call them. I think they are helpful, and I will start including them in my reviews. If you are not interested in content notes/warnings, feel free to skip over this line. I’d add a content warning to this book simply for the sex scenes. They are consensual and they are mild. There is also considerable strong language and some mild drug use.
Is it a standalone? Yes
So what worked? Character development was on point. Plot turns were believable but not entirely predictable. There was enough humor to balance out the emotionally taxing themes without cheapening the situations or the message. The judgment is placed squarely on the shoulders of people who deserve it, and I don’t really know how to define that in more detail without being at least moderately spoiler-y, so I hope you’ll understand when you read it.
What didn’t work? Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the ending. It seemed abrupt, so I’m not sure if maybe Danforth has a sequel planned. I really hope so, because there is so much I really want to know. Also, this is a personal failing and not anything wrong with the book, but this book was really emotionally draining. It deals with some very heavy but very important and culturally relevant themes, but as a consequence it can be draining for people like me (I’m an empath).
Overall: I liked the book a lot. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the heart to read it again, just because of how emotional and intense it was, but I know that I am glad I read it. I think it was one of the most raw, real books I’ve ever read, and I’m glad it’s out in the world. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, for LGBT+ youth and allies alike. I think it presents a vital perspective, especially for allies.