Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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.
I definitely need to read more LGBTQ books, so when I saw this book about a girl whose aunt tries to “fix” her, I thought it sounded like just the thing. Although I didn’t enjoy the story as much I would have liked, I think it had some very important messages, both about gay issues and religion.
I was a little surprised when I opened up this book and found that it took place in the early 1990s, but if you aren’t a fan of historical books, I don’t think this’ll be a problem at all. Yes, it takes place about twenty years before now, it’s easy to forget that. I think its setting – in… argh, I can’t remember,
but it’s somewhere in the deep Midwest okay, just looked it up on Goodreads, and it takes place in Montana – I thought it began with an M! – anyway, I was saying that I think its setting is a much bigger part of the story than the time period, plus it isn’t that noticeable aside from all the VHS tapes Cameron watches over and over again.
Anyway, Cameron’s struggle with her sexuality (and other people’s thought of it, of course) is one of the biggest parts of this book. I was kind of surprised how long it took for the “beautiful, pickup-driving Coley” from the summary to show up (about 100 pages), but Cameron’s sexual journey began long, long before that. She has many different kinds of relationships, much like any straight character would be given, but it feels different because there just isn’t enough of a focus on gay relationships in the media and our society in general. Her journey to be “fixed” also doesn’t come until we’re at least halfway through the book, so we get the chance to really see Cameron explore her sexuality individually, before there’s a harsh and judgmental spotlight on it.
I expected to hate the school that was supposed to fix Cameron, and in some ways I truly did – like how they repeatedly try to impose the right gender roles (in other words, antiqued ones – the girls’ outing involve hair and make up bonding while the boys’ involve outdoors and sports – neither of which are bad, but they are when it’s the only thing you’re allowed to enjoy depending on your gender) and how they subtly and not-so-subtly try to make these kids feel like they’re dirty, awful sinners simply for the people they love.
However, many of the characters are so much deeper that their highly conservative beliefs. Characters like Aunt Ruth, who is completely against “liberal beliefs” and such and is one of the biggest advocates for getting Cameron “fixed,” are still shown in a light where you get the sense that they’re not bad people at all, and they truly think they have Cameron’s best interests at heart. One of the characters who ran the treatment school, Reverend Rick, probably should have driven me up the wall for all his talk about being “cured,” but he was such a good and caring person otherwise that I found myself mostly feeling sorry for him and being glad that Cameron and the other kids had someone who wasn’t trying to fix them in such an uncaring and cruel way.
Despite many of the good messages and elements, I often had trouble getting into Cameron as a character and some of her friends. I just couldn’t always connect with her, and that made it sometimes difficult to get through this 400+ page book. Especially toward the beginning, I was quite interested to see what would happen, but sometimes it felt quite slow and I had trouble caring as much as I should have, and I think this was due to my occasional disconnect with Cameron.
I also wasn’t a fan of the ending. It just seemed a little too open-ended and abrupt for me. It left a lot of characters hanging because they didn’t know what was going on and thus were almost forgotten by the story in the last few pages. It was nice to see Cameron get some closure with her parents’ death, but there were just so many questions and possible outcomes unsearched that I couldn’t be really happy with it.
Even though the story didn’t always work out for me, though, I think this really was a great collection in the LGBTQ genre. It has many different and complex relationships, including briefly-mentioned ones involving secondary characters at the school, and I think that’s something we desperately need in all books. I also think I could be persuaded to check out Emily M. Danforth’s future works, especially if I feel more of a connection with the protagonist.