The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Balzer & Bray; February 7, 2012
*I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.
But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality.
Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. 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 quite 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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a classic coming of age story. Cam is a character who you will come to care for and root for. The book begins when Cam is about twelve and living an All-American small town life complete with swimming, teenage hijinks, and young love. Like most young teens and tweens Cameron is discovering romance. To her surprise and fear, she realizes she is attracted to girls.
It is at this fragile time that Cam’s parents die in a tragic car accident. The book shifts gradually several years. Cam lives with her very religious Aunt and her grandmother. She spends most of her time messing around with her guy friends and falling in and out of love with various girls, making sure to keep her sexuality a secret.
The book shifts again when Aunt Ruth discovers that Cam has been having relationships with girls. She sends her off to a Christian school geared toward “curing” homosexual youth. There, Cam encounters loneliness, restrictions, and judgment, but also makes great friends who understand her better than the people in her small town.
As I said at the beginning of the review, Cam is the star of this novel. I loved her. She is emotionally reserved, but you can feel the sadness and anger boiling up within her. She is somewhat rebellious, but not overly so - she doesn’t go out of her way just to prove a point like some of the other characters in the novel. I also loved that she kept an open mind about almost everyone. A lot of people in her life were trying to hurt her or hold her back, but she didn’t flatly demonize them.
Cameron’s open mind influenced my opinion about all the characters. I easily could have hated Aunt Ruth or Pastor Rick or Lydia - the people who were trying to “cure” Cam - for not realizing that they were doing far more harm than good. But because of the writing and Cam’s outlook, I was able to view them with empathy and some sympathy (well, maybe not for Lydia). Aunt Ruth and Pastor Rick were well-intentioned if misguided. Cam’s friends were also well-developed three-dimensional characters. We got to know Jamie, Adam, and Jane Fonda the best. None were perfect and none were characters I would have been friends with, but I understood them.
Emily Danforth’s writing is fabulous. I particularly loved her descriptions of Montana. She made the setting come alive with its rugged beauty. In fact, everything came alive - the characters, the plot, and the setting - through her prose. Ms. Danforth clearly has a literary bent. Call me pedestrian, but I don’t always like reading “literary” novels. The prose tends to overshadow the plot. There were a few instances were I thought the writing started to get in the way, but for the most part, the beautiful prose enhanced the reading experience.
A few complaints though. First, the book is long. Llllooonnnngggg. Almost 500 pages! It’s a character driven novel that meanders through Cam’s teenage years. 200 pages easily could have been filtered out and the book wouldn’t have suffered much. Because of its length, it dragged quite a bit. I remained interested in the story throughout the book, but I would have been happier if it was shorter. Second - not as much a complaint as it is personal taste - there was a lot of drug use, alcohol, and language in this book. The prevalence of pot smoking bothered me most. On one hand, it’s a realistic reflection of many teenagers’ lives. I think that YA should reflect teenagers as they are not as they should be. On the other hand, I really don’t approve of teenagers being potheads and prefer books that show the negative effects of drug use in addition to the fun times. It made me uncomfortable with the book. But as I said, that’s not a flaw per se, but more about my reading tastes.
On the whole, The Miseducation of Cameron Post was an extremely well-written, engaging book with characters that I cared about. I would love to read a book about Cam’s life in her mid-twenties to see where she ends up.